Author of the Month

Christopher Knight and Alan Butler, Authors of the Month for January 2010

Was our solar system designed to produce humans? (cont.)
By Christopher Knight and Alan Butler

The Sumerian Metre

It is well known that the Sumerian culture had a 360-degree circle and a 360-day year. They knew perfectly well that this was wrong and that are 366 star turns in a complete year, but it made their system of numerical notation and they built in compensations. They also invented the hour, the minute and the second - or at least they are the earliest people to be known to have used it. (In fact we now know that the second of time was in use in the British Isles at least 2,500 years before the Sumerians adopted it.

The Mesopotamian cultures, at various times, used a range of linear measurements, depending on the item being measured but there is a general consensus that a linear unit known as the 'kush' or 'barley cubit' was the main unit of length for during Sumerian times.

The kush was made up of 180 'se' meaning 'barley seed' and was equivalent to 49.94 cm and the often used double-kush which Professor Livio Stecchini stated that he believed should be 99.88 cm. It follows that this double-kush was made up of 360 se, just as their year had 360 days and their circle 360 degrees.

It is no coincidence that the double kush is almost identical to the modern metre because they were both based on a pendulum that swings at the rate of once a second.

The Sumerians and later cultures of the region around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers used a sexadecimal counting system of base 10s and 60s. Their divisions of time were very neat indeed:

Year = 360 days

Month = 360 hours

Day = 360 gesh (a gesh was 4 minutes of 240 seconds)

Each of the Sumerian hours represented 1 degree of the Moon's journey around the Earth and every degree of the Moon's journey was split again, by 60 to give minutes of arc and by 60 again to give seconds of arc.

Today we use seconds to measure many things, including the speed of light, which is 299,792,458 metres per second. If we change that to kush per second we get the amazingly round figure of 600,000,000 - which is a beautiful sexadecimal value. (99.95% accuracy).

The Jefferson Paradox

Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States was an amazing polymath. He set out to create a new system of units for his fledgling country, which - apart from the dollar - were never adopted. He started by looking at what means nature provided for producing a repeatable unit and, like us, he quickly identified the spinning of the Earth. Furthermore he used a pendulum that beat at the rate of once per second as his starting point - completely unaware of its ancient origins. He recorded the following statement:

"A pendulum, vibrating freely, in small and equal arcs, may be so adjusted in its length, as, by its vibrations, to make this division of the earth's motion into 86,400 equal parts, called seconds of mean time. Such a pendulum, then, becomes itself a measure of determinate length, to which all others may be referred to as a standard. "

Jefferson also carefully looked at the units of measure from Europe - and he was surprised to find that they were not in the least haphazard as generally thought. He wrote:

"This seems to have been so combined as to render it indifferent whether a thing were dealt out by weight or measure; for the dry gallon of wheat, and the liquid one of wine, were of the same weight; and the avoirdupois pound of wheat, and the troy pound of wine, were of the same measure."

"Another remarkable correspondence is that between weights and measures. For 1000 ounces avoirdupois of pure water fill a cubic foot, with mathematical exactness."

He was bemused by the obvious science that lay hidden behind old measure:

"What circumstances of the times, or purposes of barter or commerce, called for this combination of weights and measures, with the subjects to be exchanged or purchased, are not now to be ascertained. But a triple set of exact proportionals representing weights, measures, and the things to be weighed and measured, and a relation so integral between weights and solid measures, must have been the result of design and scientific calculation, and not a mere coincidence of hazard."

Jefferson concluded that some very ancient but long forgotten science was behind these unexpected correspondence. He concluded:

"…but the harmony here developed in the system of weights and measures… from very high antiquity".

When Thomas Jefferson had finished creating his own new system of measures his use of the pendulum and the second of time had connected his directly back into the system from prehistory. Though he could not know it the following is true:

1,000 Jefferson Feet = 360 Megalithic Yards

366 Jefferson Furlongs = 1 Megalithic degree of arc of the Earth

3662 Jefferson Furlongs = The exact circumference of the Earth

This is a case-winning piece of evidence.

Megalithic Yard deniers or those who wish to casually dismiss the 366 system as all being a strange set of coincidences have to explain away the 'Jefferson paradox'. Why are the ancient measure (still described in text books as ad hock) connected in the way Jefferson described and how could his 'new' system harmonise perfectly with a system employed 5,000 years earlier some 6,000 kilometres away to the east?

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