Amherst Club Luncheon Notes for Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Larry opened the meeting with some presidential witticisms.


Elsie Fetterman brought her granddaughter who is studying
Hwei-Ling Greeney brought Eric who is a junior at UMass.


Carolyn Holstein announced a non-denominational Thanksgiving service
on Wednesday evening, 7.00pm at the Unitarian Church.
Claude Tellier said that this week’s wine donated by the Spirit Haus
is a Beaujolais Nouveau; also that we are encouraged to visit the
Spirit Haus on Saturdays between 4 and 6 for their weekly wine tasting
jointly hosted with Portobello Catering.
Isaac Ben Ezra announced that Ira Helfand will be offering a series of
programs on ACTV Channel 12 on Wednesday evenings, also available On
Demand. These programs will be looking at Health Care needs in light
of the current reform proposals.
Rachel Mustin reminded us to buy Amherst Club mugs as gifts, at $10
Therese Brady Donohue announced the final performances of Mr. Seahorse
and Hermit Crab coming up this Friday and Saturday at the Eric Carle
Museum, at 2 and 3 on both afternoons.
Jacquie Price told us that the printed material for Love Notes has
gone to press and the tickets will be available in time for holiday

Harry Brooks introduced the speaker: a practicing attorney in criminal
law; President of the Astronomy Association; and President of the
Amherst Astronomy Association; Thomas Whitney, on ‘Viewing the

In a coherent and organized way, he took us on a twenty minute whistle-
stop tour of the ages, from Egypt in 4,000 B.C. to the early 20th

With the aid of a useful fact sheet, we were able to understand how
the ancient Egyptians associated the appearance of Sirius in
combination with the rising sun with the annual flooding of the Nile,
and from that decided on a 365 day year, divided into twelve 30-day
months plus five extra days.

Two thousand years later, the Sumerians’ fascination with the number 6
led to the division of a circle into 360 degrees, which ultimately led
to the division of each hour into 60 minutes, each of which is further
divided into 60 seconds. Around this same time, the Egyptians were the
first culture to accept that the nighttime was also part of a day, and
divided each day into twelve hours each of day and night.

We passed through the Babylonians’ realization of twelve
constellations, seven planets, and, in 700BC, the recognition of a
seven day week.

Moving right along, we learned how the days of the month were named
and changed according to the conceit of various Roman emperors; how
the length of each year varied according to the popularity or power of
the consuls in power; then the weekdays, Christian festivals and the
year numbers were set by Church councils.

More recently, in the late 19th century, Time Zones were realized by
the powerful Railroad companies, as an obvious necessity for their
trains travelling long distances east and west, at speeds of up to

Finally, daylight Savings Time was initiated by Kaiser Wilhelm during
the First World War to maximize the use of daylight for farmers.
Vivienne Carey, scribe.