Age is just a number, right?

Today is my 40th birthday. I’m still trying to grasp that. All of my life, I’ve thought of 40 as old. Not just old, but, like, OLD old. Like really grown-up old. Like I-shouldn’t-still-be-playing-video-games-at-that-age old. (But I’m still playing video games, and have no plans to stop. Sorry, that’s one part of me that will not be growing up.)

Other notable folks who share my birthday: Christopher Lee (the coolest Dracula), Henry Kissinger, Siouxsie Sioux, Andre 3000 of Outkast, and the late Vincent Price.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom, natch. Wondering what she’d think to see her little baby at this age. Wondering what she thought I’d be all those years ago when she first held me in her arms. Wish I had a hotline to Heaven so I could call her up and ask…

Over on my Facebook page, I had fun early this morning, as I always do on my birthday, playing around with unit conversion. For instance, if you measure my life in gigaseconds, I’m only 1.262 — not even a toddler! 🙂 I also speculated about a potential alien civilization orbiting the star V538 Aurigae. Assuming my dad went out on the day I was born and broadcast the announcement of my birth to the universe via some form of electromagnetic transmission, then that hypothetical civilization would be receiving the news right about now (if one assumes a relatively stable transmission speed through the vacuum, along with a slight “fudge factor” to account for slowdown while passing through interstellar gases and whatnot).

Playing around with temporal unit conversion is also helpful for reminding one of just how damn difficult it is to nail down a stable unit of measurement for time. Take “year” for example. We usually define a “year” as 365 days, so I should be 14,600 days old, right? Except we add in leap years to allow solar time (when the sun rises and sets) to keep pace with atomic time. In leap years we add an extra day to the calendar, making 366 days.

I’ve lived through 10 leap years, which means 10 extra days, so as of today I’m actually 14,610 days old.

And don’t even get into how many seconds I’ve been alive. You know about leap seconds, don’t you? No, seriously, that’s actually a thing. The next leap second will be added on June 30. The reason that none of this stuff matches up is because we measure “time” based on the earth’s rotation and its travel around the sun, and that motion is irregular. Atomic time is a theoretical ideal determined by what time WOULD be if the earth’s motion were perfectly uniform; but since that motion isn’t uniform, we have to occasionally make adjustments to keep the two in sync. So I am (as of this writing) somewhere around 33 seconds older on the atomic time scale than on the “normal” GMT scale.

This stuff must drive rocket scientists crazy.


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