# Ragged Clown

## It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…

July
2008

Ever wondered why there are 360 degrees?

Constellations make a circle throughout the year â€” ever see the Big Dipper upside down sometimes? (Never fear, itâ€™ll be rightside-up in 6 months). Hereâ€™s a theory about how degrees came to pass:

• Humans noticed that constellations moved in a full circle every year
• Every day, they moved a tiny bit (â€ a degreeâ€)
• Since a year has about 360 days, a circle had 360 degrees

But, butâ€¦ why not 365 degrees in a circle?

Cut â€˜em some slack: they had sundials and didnâ€™t know a year should have a convenient 365.242199 degrees like you do.

360 is close enough for government work. It fits nicely into the Babylonian base-60 number system, and divides well (by 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12, 15, 30, 45, 90â€¦ you get the idea).

According to Better Explained, degrees are subjective but radians are objective.

A degree is the amount I, an observer, need to tilt my head to see you, the mover. Itâ€™s a tad self-centered, donâ€™t you think?

Much of physics (and life!) involves leaving your reference frame and seeing things from anotherâ€™s viewpoint. Instead of wondering how far we tilted our heads, consider how far the other person moved.