Wait a Minute...
By R. D. Flavin




     It's been another run-of-the-mill week with weather woes, more threats from Microsoft involving the future global acceptance of Windows 10.1, Denver won Super Bowl 50 (avoiding the usual Roman numeral – L = 50) and Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem with Coldplay joined by Beyoncé and Bruno Mars for the half-time pop, I've decided to discontinue my personal daily bowel movement log-book, former Pres. Carter says he'd prefer Trump over Cruz (though Canadian-born Sen. Cruise STILL can't accept he will not become president unless Congress passes a new law regarding the citizenship of children born abroad with an American non-military or federally employed mother), Subway has abruptly stopped its $5 campaign and raised their prices to $6 in a “Sub-maggedon” for February only (and after that?), Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont won the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire with "The Donald" winning the Republican joke, the nation of Luxembourg wants to mine asteroids, we learned O. J. Simpson wanted to commit suicide in Kim Kardashian's bedroom, and...wait a minute. The Juice wanted to squeeze one off in a kid's bedroom not knowing she would grow up to be a popular no-talented 'reality' star on television, amateur porn star on the Internet, and constantly flaunting her substantial behind to become the butt of countless jokes? Well, maybe it hasn't been such an ordinary week after all.

     In all areas of human endeavors, both personal and societal, and the physical universe which we can observe including actions and reactions we can only manage an educated guess (read: hypothesize), have uniquely changed in a googolplexian variety of ways. After a colloquial fashion, one may confidently mention an “ordinary” week or any time-based unit of measurement, as a normal and without unusual occurrences, but in reality (and mathematics), “ordinary” is simply a hypothetical center surrounded by levels leading to extremes, unless you follow Erwin Schrödinger's quantum physics approach wherein a “week” may be ordinary, unordinary, or both ordinary and unordinary at the same time. It's in the same class of hypotheticals as 'normal' and 'average' in which such might exist, but it's a statistician's fantasy or mathematical projection which can only exist in theory and is all but impossible in the real world. Unless, of course, one limits the parameters of what constitutes an “ordinary” week and perhaps one may achieve such (and many probably, with day-to-day repetitiveness) free of the introduction of anything different, no errors or accidents, and no natural disasters occur. I'm an alphabetologist and believe it's proper for everyone who uses an alphabetic script should be interested in the origin, history, and development of the alphabet – I believe it's normal. However, as truth will out, I know most have little or no interest in the origin and history of the alphabet except for a small group of anthropologists and linguists. It's self-deception and I will stubbornly continue to regard studying the alphabet as 'normal' behavior. May those who disagree run out of toilet paper at the worst possible moment.

     Now, discord (Hail Eris!) occurs, sometimes more often with some than others. When wrong replaces right or when an unexpected non sequitur slips into place a response of “Wait a minute...” is not uncommon. Apples, cherries, oranges, drug-addicted prostitutes, blueberries, ...wait a minute. There's something out of place in the previous list of fruits. “Wait a minute…,” as an English idiom, is used in conversation to express a need for clarification or perhaps simply a request to repeat something. In terms of time, “Wait a minute…,” may be used as an approximate moment of a generally short span, or put forth as an exact period of time, that is, one minute.

     Our English chronological term 'minute' is derived from the Latin pars minuta prima or "first small part," with the English chronological term 'second' adapted from the Latin pars minuta secunda or" second small part." From the world's only History of Mathematics Department (temporarily suspended for a lack of interested grad-students) at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Prof Neugebaur remarked,”Thus our present division of the day into 24 hours of 60 minutes each is the result of a Hellenistic modification of an Egyptian practice combined with Babylonian numerical procedures. (Neugebaur 1957, p. 81.).” Perhaps a tad bit of explanation is required.

     After the Akkadians conquered the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, they began to use a 60-based numerical system, ca. 2,500 BCE to 2,350 BCE (later referred to as 'Babylonian') which consisted of the East Semitic cuneiform characters alongside an earlier Sumerian character representing the number '60'. It's been suggested the 60-based system arose from three groups of twenty, though from the Akkadian period onward, the reigning Mesopotamian dynasty utilized besides the 60-based system, others based on 12, 10, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and even a 1-based, thought to represent the original Sumerian way of counting.

     Either independently or through some stimulus diffusion, ancient Egypt kept a 'day' of two 'twelve' uneven hours (as well as an odd 'year' of 12 months plus 5 days, which worked for awhile…). It was the early Greeks who formally divided and defined the 'hour' as consisting of 60 minutes. Seconds came later, though honestly, there was no 'exact' time until the invention of a marine chronometer in 1773, which the British government paid a substantial fee (all major maritime countries offered similar fees or 'rewards'). The 1773 'clock' for measuring or calculating longitude only lasted a few decades, as they were very expensive, but seamen had gotten used to using a version of lunar almanacs published in 1776. After ca. 1850 many countries used a less expensive marine chronometer, along with updated lunar almanacs until wireless signals were first sent out from Boston, and later replaced by radar in 1940.

     And, to finally finish this incredibly boring portion of this column, the minute is composed of sixty seconds (though apparently a leap second is used every now and then to make a minute 61 seconds in length) regulated by the International System of Units since 1967 which defines 'one' second as the time it takes a Cesium-133 atom at two hyperfine levels of a ground state to oscillate exactly 9,192,631,770 times. Whew! Almost got to a “Wait a minute...” moment.

     NASA is getting ready for a 2018 test launch of a capsule which is designed to support humans traveling to Mars some 43,000 past the Moon (despite Congress's science adviser recently bad-mouthing NASA as unprepared and underfunded).  North Korea has managed to develop a missile which can put a satellite in low-Earth orbit, however from all reports the satellite "tumbled" for a bit and, though stabilized, may be of no use whatsoever.  What IS of concern regarding North Korea is the announcement of the Yongbyon reactor could produce around 4 kg of plutonium a year, just enough to an annual nuclear bomb.  This could get complicated with their insane rhetoric, nuclear testing, and increased efforts to build a working intercontinental ballistic missile system.  This should be China's purview as they backed North Korea during the the 1950-1953 'War' (which technically persists as no peace agreement was ever signed), and with China's military might (they sent 200,000 troops into Vietnam in 1979, stopping miles short of Hanoi, and slapped them into shape), one should expect China to take care of a rogue nation with nuclear abilities in their own backyard.  The U.S. has soldiers and advisers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and we're on the verge of putting boots on the ground in Syria, so the North Korean problem may have to be solved with the total annihilation of Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea), but without the use of ground troops, i.e., nuke 'em before they nuke us.  Wait a minute...  Did I just encourage dropping a nuclear bomb on North Korea?  Well, at least Pres. Obama has sent a $19 billion request to Congress to give NASA an extra boost.  Excuse me, but I've got to take a moment after suggesting the U.S. use nuclear weapons against North Korea.  Yeah, at times I'm Left of Left or in the Middle of Left and occasionally a smidgen Right of Left, but I've never promoted the use of nuclear weapons before.  Maybe this past week hasn't been as "run-of-the-mill" as I'd thought...


Neugebaur, O. 1957. The Exact Sciences in Antiquity. Second edition (revised and enlarged). Providence, RI: Brown University Press. First edition – 1951; Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.

Okay, so I once had a relationship which lasted 320,720 minutes,

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