For Those Who Can’t Do

THE MATH… Monday was Groundhog Day. A whistlepig in the tourist trap town of Punxatawney, Pee-Ay, is goaded out of his den. If the sun is out, casting a shadow — which shadow said whistlepig will presumably behold — six more weeks of winter. If not, all’s well, and the season will proceed normally to spring.

To understand something, you need to know a couple of facts. First, spring begins on the vernal equinox, which is generally sometime around March 21. Second, six weeks is roughly equivalent to 42 days.

Which means that, if you add 42 to 2 (the date of Groundhog Day), you get 44. Subract from that 28 — the number of days in a non-leap-year February — and you get the date of the last day of our sentence of winter — 16. The 16th of March would therefore be the last day of our extended winter. Five days before the official and ordinary — normal, even — start of spring on the 21st.

It has always amazed and delighted me that people would fall for this nonsense.

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