The Akrasia Effect: Why We Make Plans but Don’t Follow Through

Humans are prolific procrastinators. It’s easy to make plans and throw dates on your calendar, and yet it’s practically inevitable that you’ll let some deadlines fly by with reckless abandon. Our brains simply prefer instant rewards to long-term payoffs. Given this tendency, we often have to resort to crazy strategies to get things done.

This post originally appeared on James Clear’s blog.

By the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the famous French author had made an agreement with his publisher that he would write a new book titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Instead of writing the book, Hugo spent the next year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work on the text. Hugo’s publisher had become frustrated by his repeated procrastination and responded by setting a formidable deadline. The publisher demanded that Hugo finish the book by February of 1831—less than six months away.

Hugo developed a plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes, removed them from his chambers, and locked them away. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, Hugo was no longer tempted to leave the house and get distracted. Staying inside and writing was his only option.

The strategy worked. Hugo remained in his study each day and wrote furiously during the fall and winter of 1830. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published two weeks early on January 14, 1831.

The Ancient Problem of Akrasia

Human beings have been procrastinating for centuries. Even prolific artists like Victor Hugo are not immune to the distractions of daily life. The problem is so timeless, in fact, that ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia.

Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control. Akrasia is what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.

Why would Victor Hugo commit to writing a book and then put it off for over a year? Why do we make plans, set deadlines, and commit to goals, but then fail to follow through on them?

Why We Make Plans, But Don’t Take Action

One explanation for why akrasia rules our lives and procrastination pulls us in has to do with a behavioral economics term called “time inconsistency.” Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.

When you make plans for yourself—like setting a goal to lose weight or write a book or learn a language—you are actually making plans for your future self. You are envisioning what you want your life to be like in the future and when you think about the future it is easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits.

When the time comes to make a decision, however, you are no longer making a choice for your future self. Now you are in the moment and your brain is thinking about the present self. And researchers have discovered that the present self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff. This is one reason why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up you find yourself falling into old patterns. Your brain values long-term benefits when they are in the future, but it values immediate gratification when it comes to the present moment.

This is one reason why the ability to delay gratification is such a great predictor of success in life. Understanding how to resist the pull of instant gratification—at least occasionally, if not consistently—can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

The Akrasia Antidote: 3 Ways to Beat Procrastination

Here are three ways to overcome akrasia, beat procrastination, and follow through on what you set out to do.

Strategy 1: Design Your Future Actions

When Victor Hugo locked his clothes away so he could focus on writing, he was creating what psychologists refer to as a “commitment device.” Commitment devices are strategies that help improve your behavior by either increasing the obstacles or costs of bad behaviors or reducing the effort required for good behaviors.

You can curb your future eating habits by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in the bulk size. You can stop wasting time on your phone by deleting games or social media apps. You can reduce the likelihood of mindless channel surfing by hiding your TV in a closet and only taking it out on big game days. You can voluntarily ask to be added to the banned list at casinos and online gambling sites to prevent future gambling sprees. You can build an emergency fund by setting up an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account. These are commitment devices.

The circumstances differ, but the message is the same: commitment devices can help you design your future actions. Find ways to automate your behavior beforehand rather than relying on willpower in the moment. Be the architect of your future actions, not the victim of them.

Strategy 2: Reduce the Friction of Starting

The guilt and frustration of procrastinating is usually worse than the pain of doing the work. In the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky, “On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating.”

So why do we still procrastinate? Because it’s not being in the work that is hard, it’sstarting the work. The friction that prevents us from taking action is usually centered around starting the behavior. Once you begin, it’s often less painful to do the work. This is why it is often more important to build the habit of getting started when you’re beginning a new behavior than it is to worry about whether or not you are successful at the new habit.

You have to constantly reduce the size of your habits. Put all of your effort and energy into building a ritual and make it as easy as possible to get started. Don’t worry about the results until you’ve mastered the art of showing up.

Strategy 3: Utilize Implementation Intentions

An implementation intention is when you state your intention to implement a particular behavior at a specific time in the future. For example, “I will exercise for at least 30 minutes on [DATE] in [PLACE] at [TIME].”

There are hundreds of successful studies showing how implementation intentions positively impact everything from exercise habits to flu shots. In the flu shot study, researchers looked at a group of 3,272 employees at a Midwestern company and found that employees who wrote down the specific date and time they planned to get their flu shot were significantly more likely to follow through weeks later.

It seems simple to say that scheduling things ahead of time can make a difference, but as I have covered previously, implementation intentions can make you 2x to 3x more likely to perform an action in the future.

Fighting Akrasia

Our brains prefers instant rewards to long-term payoffs. It’s simply a consequence of how our minds work. Given this tendency, we often have to resort to crazy strategies to get things done—like Victor Hugo locking up all of his clothes so he could write a book. But I believe it is worth it to spend time building these commitment devices if your goals are important to you.

Aristotle coined the term enkrateia as the antonym of akrasia. While akrasiarefers to our tendency to fall victim to procrastination, enkrateia means to be “in power over oneself.” Designing your future actions, reducing the friction of starting good behaviors, and using implementation intentions are simple steps that you can take to make it easier to live a life of enkrateia rather than one of akrasia.

The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don’t Follow Through on What We Set Out to Do (And What to Do About It) | James Clear

11 Inventions That Could’ve Changed The World If Only Greed Hadn’t Set In

We could really have been living in a different world right now. A world with a lot more harmony among mankind. A world with a lot less conflict. A happier world for sure. But that wouldn’t have been profitable for some, now would it?

Before you call me cynical, here’s a list of 13 inventions that could have revolutionised the way we live but didn’t. Because greed came in the way.

1. General Motors EV1


EV1 was the world’s first mass-produced electric car. The decision to mass-produce an electric car came after GM received a favourable reception for its 1990 Impact electric concept car, from which the design of the EV1 drew heavily. This single-speed reduction integrated with motor and differential, a 2-door coupe was in production between 1996-1999, producing a total of 1,117 units.

The car was discouraged, and supposedly discontinued, after oil companies started showing their displeasure and discouraging manufacturers. Unfortunately, General Motors destroyed most of the units, and discontinued the car.

2. Project XA

Project XA

Project XA was a long-term project by the Liggett group. Liggett spent around $15 million and 12 years of research to come up with cigarettes that were considerably safer than conventional cigarettes. These cigarettes would have most carcinogens removed, which would reduce the harm done by tobacco and its by products.

Other tobacco companies didn’t like the implication that their tobacco was harmful. Defendant Brown & Williamson threatened Liggett’s “very existence” if it marketed the cigarette. Later R. J. Reynolds told the FDA that it was because the tobacco industry wanted to put across that “conventional cigarettes weren’t unsafe”. Calling one safer than the other would put their business in jeopardy.

3. Cold Fusion

Cold Fusion

Cold fusion describes a form of energy generated when hydrogen interacts with various metals like nickel and palladium. Which, in layman terms, stands for a nuclear reaction that would occur at, or very near room temperature. That would mean a very high possibility of a cheap and abundant source of energy at one’s disposal.

Apparently, a number of failed experiments led to rival scientists and other members in the fraternity branding it as junk science. Even though funding for further tests in cold fusion is very hard to obtain, a small number of researchers continue to investigate the theory.

4. The Chronovisor


This, if true, has to be one of the most insane inventions that got lost in time. Father François Brunes, the author of several books on the paranormal and religion, in his 2002 book Le Nouveau Mystère du Vatican (“The Vatican’s New Mystery”) talks about the Chronovisor. The Chronovisor was apparently a fully functional device with which one could see, or hear things from the past! In the book, Brunes mentions that the device was built by a certain Pellegrino Ernetti, an Italian priest and scientist. Described as a large cabinet with a cathode ray tube for viewing the received events, and a series of buttons, levers, and other controls for selecting the time and the location to be viewed, it worked by receiving, decoding and reproducing electromagnetic radiation left behind from past events. It could also pick up the audio component or sound waves emitted by these same events. Ernetti said that he had observed, among other historical events, Christ’s crucifixion and photographed it as well. A copy of this image, Ernetti said, appeared in the 2 May 1972 issue of La Domenica del Corriere, an Italian weekly news magazine. The device being intriguing to say the least, but the existence, let alone the functionality of the Chronovisor was never validated. Some believe the device can still be found in the Vatican.

5. The Rife Beam

Rife Beam

Dr Royal Raymond Rife or Roy Rife, an American optics engineer, claimed to have invented a device that would have completely changed the health sector. The genius that many claim Dr. Rife was, engineered an electronic device in the 1930s that would destroy pathogens, bacteria, even viruses without leaving any toxic side effects. This meant that cancer, the life threatening disease that it has become off-late would have been as easy to cure as a common cold. The beam could completely destroy cancer by altering the cancer’s cellular environment or by killing cancer viruses with an electronic or ultra sonic beam.

You could probably guess exactly what happened next. The cancer cure industry is a multi-billion dollar one which wouldn’t have been so had the beam reached the public. Dr. Rife claimed that the American Medical Association, with pressure from the medical mafia discredited his life-saving device. Currently only a handful of doctors are holding this technology together, hoping that someday, it will save humanity.

6. Water Fuel Cell

Water Fuel Cell


American Stanley Allen Meyer came up with a Water Fuel Cell in which the cell splits water into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would then be used to generate energy. According to Meyer, the device required less energy to perform electrolysis than the minimum energy requirement predicted or measured by conventional science. He claimed that this could revolutionise the automobile industry.

This theory, however, was found to be fraudulent by an Ohio court in 1996. But the suspicions surrounding his sudden death is what makes people think that his technology could have been suppressed.

7. The Cloudbuster


Designed by Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, the Cloudbuster was a pseudo-scientific device that could be used to produce rain by manipulating what he termed as orgone energy present in the atmosphere. Successfully tested in 1953, it was intended to be used like a lightening rod that would draw the orgone energy out of the atmosphere, causing the formation of clouds and rain. Famine wouldn’t have been a word that’s used so often in today’s day and age if a technology like this were to be made available.

Being a controversial figure, Reich was arrested, and all his works were destroyed.

8. Implosion Generators

Implosion Generators

Another device that could produce free energy based on implosion and water vortices was invented by Viktor Schauberger. But we couldn’t find a lot of information on the Austrian’s invention and his theory on vortex energy. Viktor’s invention was later buried by his U.S partners.

9. Wardenclyffe Towers


Scientist Nikola Tesla was one of the most interesting figures in history, with many of his theories and inventions being ahead of their time. His rise could have given birth to a number of world-altering technologies, but unfortunately that never happened. The Wardenclyffe Tower could have perhaps been the most important one. He attempted to provide free energy to everyone across the globe by harnessing electricity from the Earth’s ionosphere by means of towers. Without wires, the towers could transmit the harnessed electricity to ground-level areas requiring it.

But what’s a world if people can’t mint money out of a path-breaking product right? The thought of giving every individual across the globe free electricity didn’t go down well with the douchebags in power. Tesla’s  funding was stopped. His equipment and lab was burned down together with the related intellectual property because it posed a threat to undercutting the cost of the conventional electricity grid system. Tesla, who could have been the most important man in human history, died a poverty-stricken, lonely and forgotten man in New York.

10. The anti-gravity device

Anti Gravity Device

Thomas Townsend Brown developed discs that used electrogravitic propulsion to build devices that could defy gravity. But what happens when something too good to be true comes along the way? It becomes classified information and is shoved into rubble. That’s exactly what happened with Brown’s experiments as well. The results of his study were so impressive that it never saw the light of day.

11. The Unified Theory

Unified Thoery

Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath worked together to come up with a unified approach to curing heart diseases. Following a brilliant study, they found that heart disease is a result of a long-term vitamin C deficiency. The solution was to treat patients with frequent high doses (e.g. 6g/day) of vitamin C while using the amino acids lysine and proline to remove the atherosclerotic plaque lining the inner walls of the blood vessels, that cause blockages, thereby restricting blood flow and cardiovascular disease.

But I’m sure you can see why we don’t see it in practice. It was a financial threat to the pharmaceutical industry. A highly successful cheap alternative therapy is not good for business at all.

Here Are 49 Ways In Which Alcohol Is Actually Good For Your Health

This weekend, you can round up your friends and have a drink without feeling guilty about it, because alcohol – in the right amount – can actually be good for your health. Yes, really!

Check out the health benefits of your favourite spirits.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Regulates cholesterol

Beer raises your HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels, thereby preventing your arteries from getting clogged and improving your heart health.

2. Boosts brain power

Research shows that people who drink beer in moderate amounts are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than non-beer drinkers.

3. Soothes a cold

Beer is made of barley, which when warmed up can improve blood circulation and reduce congestion. So, the next time you have a cold, drink a warm beer!

4. Contains fibre and B vitamins

Certain dark varieties of beer contain fibre, which can slow down the absorption of alcohol and regulate your digestion. Beer is also rich in B vitamins like folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and vitamins B6 and B12. These vitamins make your skin soft and smooth, and can reverse pigmentation to some extent.

5. Prevents kidney stones

Beer has kidney-protective properties, so much so that it can lower your chances of getting kidney stones by a whopping 40 percent!

6. Strengthens bones

A study found that drinking two beers a day can improve bone density, but be careful because the same study found that drinking more than two beers increases your chances of getting a fracture.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Aids weight loss

Vodka is carbohydrate-free and has only 64 calories per ounce! The problem arises when people mix it with sugary juices and soft drinks. The trick is to mix it with water or soda, and add lemon, mint leaves or fruits for flavour.

2. Regulates blood pressure

Vodka improves your blood circulation and regulates your blood pressure, thereby reducing your chances of having a heart attack.

3. Relieves stress

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows down the activity of the brain and the central nervous system, making you more relaxed. Among all the various types of alcohol, vodka is particularly effective when it comes to stress-relief.

4. Lowers fever

If a person has high fever, applying vodka on their forehead, arms, legs and chest can help bring down their temperature.

5. Improves digestion

Adding small amounts of vodka to your food can do wonders for your digestion. Penne vodka, anyone?

6. Soothes toothaches

Applying a little vodka to your tooth can cure a toothache, since it disinfects the tooth and numbs the pain a little.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Boosts brain power

Whiskey is loaded with ellagic acid, a chemical that improves cognitive function and prevents diseases like Alzheimer’s. You have to consume it in moderation however, because drinking too much of it does just the opposite.

2. Protects your heart

Over a hundred different studies have shown that alcohol has heart-protective benefits, and whiskey is one of the foremost in this department. In fact, research shows that drinking moderate amounts of whiskey on a regular basis can reduce your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke by 50 percent!

3. Prevents cancer

Ellagic acid is a powerful antioxidant that also prevents cancer. It battles the harmful free radicals that your body produces, keeping diseases at bay.

4. Boosts immunity

The jury is still out on this one, but some studies show that whiskey has the power to boost your immunity, helping your system fight off colds, illnesses and infections.

5. Prevents diabetes

Whiskey can reduce your chances of getting diabetes by 30 to 40 percent, because it improves your body’s ability to manage glucose.

6. Helps weight loss

Whiskey too has zero carbs and is low in calories. Drinking a small amount of whiskey after a meal can improve digestion and suppress your appetite, preventing you from overeating.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Contains medicinal properties

There’s a reason why we always associate rum with sailors. The British navy would give each of its sailors a ration of rum, because rum can help prevent scurvy, a condition marked by a deficiency of Vitamin C.

2. Increases longevity

Drinking moderate amounts of rum can add anywhere between 2 to 5 years to your life!

3. Prevents muscle and bone problems

Rum can help reduce muscle pain and prevent osteoporosis, since it increases bone mineral density.

4. Treats the common cold

Rum has antimicrobial properties that can help you do away with those sniffles.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Lowers your blood sugar levels

Tequila is made from the agave plant, which contains a natural sugar called agave. Agave triggers insulin production and thereby causes your blood sugar levels to fall.

2. Regulates cholesterol

Research shows that agavins act like fibre and lower your triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Tequila also regulates the absorption of fat from your intestines, making you feel less bloated when you drink.

3. Contains prebiotics and probiotics

Probiotics are the healthy bacteria in our intestines that control everything from digestion to immunity. Prebiotics make space for the probiotics, by creating a hospitable environment for them.

4. Prevents diseases

The agavins in tequila have several properties that help your body stave off a number of diseases, including osteoporosis, dementia and diabetes.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Contains a number of medicinal ingredients

The main ingredients in gin are juniper berries, which are a natural remedy for coughs, congestion, renal insufficiency and menstruation problems. Apart from these berries, gin is typically made with other medicinal herbs like coriander, cassia, nutmeg, sage, angelica root, and rosemary.

2. Prevents malaria

The combination of Gin and Tonic was actually invented by the British as a way to prevent malaria!

3. Reduces the inflammation associated with arthritis

Juniper berries are loaded with compounds that battle chronic inflammation, so drinking small amounts of gin on a regular basis can combat arthritis.

4. Fights infections

Gin fights both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, thereby helping your body stave off bacterial infections.

5. Keeps your skin healthy

Juniper berries are loaded with antioxidants that keep your skin young, healthy and wrinkle-free.

6. Improves digestion

The herbs in gin trigger the release of digestive enzymes and stomach acid, making it easier for your system to break down food.

7. Promotes weight loss

Like vodka and whiskey, gin too has a minimal amount of calories. In fact, it helps you out a little more by improving digestion and reducing bloating.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Keeps you young

Red wine contains resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of grapes that has anti-ageing properties.

2. Prevents cancer

Several studies have shown that wine can reduce your risk of getting cancer, colon and breast cancer in particular.

3. Reduces the risk of depression

Research shows that drinking two to seven glasses of wine per week can reduce your chances of depression considerably.

4. Keeps your heart healthy

Wine prevents blood clots and regulates your cholesterol levels, thereby keeping your arteries clear and preventing heart attacks and strokes as a result.

5. Protects your memory

Studies show that drinking one glass of wine every day can improve your memory and reduce your risk of developing dementia.

6. Helps you live longer

A Finnish study found that wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than people who drink beer or other spirits!

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Improves heart health

Brandy is made by distilling wine further, to increase its alcoholic content. It therefore has all the properties of wine, in a more concentrated proportion. The antioxidants in brandy balance cholesterol, reduce plaque build-up, lower blood pressure and prevent heart attacks.

2. Slows down ageing

The antioxidant compounds in brandy, some of which are attributed to the presence of copper in some of the ageing barrels, have a strong effect on the body. They fight the free radicals that cause ageing, keeping your skin and even your brain young.

3. Reduces the risk of cancer

Brandy contains ellagic acid, which prevents the growth and spread of cancer cells.

4. Soothes colds and coughs

For years, brandy has been used as a remedy for respiratory problems like colds, coughs and sore throats. It eliminates harmful bacteria, loosens up mucus and soothes away the irritation.

5. Boosts immunity

The antioxidants in brandy boost your immune system, while the alcoholic content helps kill off harmful pathogens.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Enables weight loss

Champagne is a type of sparkling wine that originates from a certain region in France, however it happens to contain fewer calories than both red and white wine! It is also served in slimmer flutes, making it easier for you to limit your intake. Studies also show that the bubbles make you sip on it more slowly, so you will probably drink lesser of it overall.

2. Improves memory

Studies show that a person’s spatial and short-term memory can improve after they drink a little champagne. Spatial memory is the ability to recognize one’s surroundings, as well as perform complex tasks and calculations. Short-term memory is the information that your brain retains for a short period of time.

3. Boosts heart health

While most people associate red wine with heart health, few know that champagne is as good for the heart as a glass of red wine.

Health Benefits of Alcohol

1. Contains plenty of antioxidants

Research shows that a glass of cider delivers the same amount of antioxidants as a glass of red wine.

2. Makes for a good gluten-free option

Since cider is made of apples, it contains no gluten (unlike beer), making it a good option for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

A word of caution, before you get carried away.

Experts recommend that women limit their alcohol intake to one drink per day, and that men limit their intake to two drinks per day. And no, you can’t save up these drinks and drink them all on the weekend, because binge drinking is extremely harmful to your health.




Firmly entrenched in American society, the seemingly capricious nature of the Fahrenheit temperature scale could lead one to think that its Dutch inventor, Daniel Fahrenheit, pulled the number for the freezing point (32°F) of water out of his hat. But, in fact, its designation, as well as that of 0°F were precisely (for the early 18th century) calculated based upon deliberate choices about how to establish fixed points of temperature.

Engineer, physicist and glass blower, Fahrenheit (1686-1736) decided to create a temperature scale based upon three fixed temperature points – that of freezing water, human body temperature, and the coldest point that he could repeatably cool a solution of water, ice and a kind of salt, ammonium chloride. It is generally thought he chose these three points based on an older temperature scale created by Ole Christensen Rømer (1644-1710) 20 years earlier.

Under Rømer’s system, brine (the salt-/ice- water mixture) freezes at 0°, water at 7.5°, normal human body temperature was 22.5° and water’s boiling point was 60°. Desiring to make calculations easier (i.e., produce fewer fractions), and to increase the precision of the scale by increasing the number of distinguishable parts within it (granularity), Fahrenheit decided to multiply each value by a factor of about 4, and set to work.

According to his published article on the subject, he started with the brine and a blank thermometer; he then assigned the point where the thermometer was the lowest as 0°F. Next, he placed the thermometer in still water just as ice was beginning to form, and eventually assigned this 32°F. He then measured human body temperature and assigned this 96°F. He ultimately chose these two numbers, as opposed to 30°F (7.5*4) and 90°F (22.5*4) in no small part due to the fact that the 64 degrees between the two points made marking lines on the thermometer easier (due to the six equal intervals).

As water (at sea level and standard atmospheric pressure) boils at about 212°F in the original scale, 180° above its freezing point, this number was eventually defined as the scale’s exact boiling point of water. This more precise definition ultimately forced a slight adjustment of normal body temperature to about 98°F from 96°F. (Of course, “normal” body temperature is a bit of a misnomer here, with it varying from person to person, and even varying quite a bit in an individual based on a variety of factors such as time of day, age, etc., commonly ranging between about 97°F and 99°F.)

ThermometerAs for the Celsius temperature scale, it has been around for almost as long as Fahrenheit, but it wasn’t nearly as widely used as today until the conversion of most of the world to the metric system in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anders Celsius (1701-1744) was also a physicist, as well as an astronomer and mathematician. Interested in atmospheric sciences, in 1742 Celsius published his finding that the freezing point of water was independent of latitude (something previously debated); he also developed a consistent method of calculating the boiling point of water as barometric pressure changes.

To accommodate his findings, bring even more rationality to measuring temperature, and avoid negative numbers, Celsius designed his own temperature scale, and assigned 100°C as the freezing point of water and 0°C as its boiling point at sea level (and no, that’s not a typo).  Celsius’ colleague from Uppsala University, Carl Linnaeus (of thefamous taxonomy) is reputed to be responsible for reversing the numbers.

Specifically, in the 1730s, Linnaeus built an orangery (a kind of conservatory originally erected to grow citrus fruits) in Uppsala. In order to maintain the proper temperature for his exotic plants, he needed an accurate thermometer, which he ordered from the Swedish instrument maker, Daniel Ekström. It was delivered in December of 1745, and in a contemporaneous publication, Linnaeus noted that “our thermometer shows 0 (zero) at the point where water freezes and 100 degrees at the boiling-point of water.” As this is the earliest record of having switched the degrees to the modern form, Linnaeus is often given credit for the idea.

Why There Are 24 Hours in a Day

Why are there 24 Hours in a Day

We live in a base-10 world. The decimal system governs everything from the binary functions of computers to the amount of change you get when you buy anything from the supermarket. So why isn’t the standard day just 10 hours long? Credit the Egyptians for that one.

As human civilization moved from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural communities, people realized the need to tally their objects and property. (If you go out to pasture with eleven cows in the morning, then come back with eight in the evening—and don’t see the difference—you’ve really messed up). The concept of written language was just spreading at that point, so people had count the same way kids do today—using their fingers and sometimes toes.

Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 3000 BC show the use of a base-10 decimal system. So why did they set their clocks to base-12? Did ancient Egyptians have 12 fingers or did they count their hand as 1 too? Many believe that the base-12 system arose from a counting system the Egyptians inherited from the earlier Sumerian culture, counting not by the whole finger but by each individual knuckle. That is, if you open your left hand and use the tip of your thumb to touch each of the three knuckles in your four fingers, you’ll total 12. To measure time using this method, the Egyptians divided the day into 12-hour halves—or, more accurately, a ten hour day, two hours of morning and evening twilight, and 12 hours of darkness. Very smart yet complicated.

The Egyptians based the hours themselves on the movement of the heavens. They tracked a series of 36 small constellations, known as “decans,” which rise consecutively over the horizon approximately once every 40 minutes. The rising of each decan marked the start of a new hour. The start of a new decade—the Egyptian 10-day period—began with the appearance of a new decan in the Eastern sky just before dawn.

By the 9th Dynasty (about 2100 BC), Egyptians had augmented their solar calendar with the regular appearances of these stars to create a unified annual calendar. Its 36 decades constituted the 360-day Egyptian year. The new system proved precise enough to accurately predict the annual flooding of the Nile with the rising of the star Sirius, even though the actual length of individual hours varied according to the season. “Tables were produced to help people to determine time at night by observing the decans. Amazingly, such tables have been found inside the lids of coffins, presumably so that the dead could also tell the time,” Dr. Nick Lomb, the Sydney Observatory’s consultant curator of astronomy, told ABC News.

While the new calendar made telling time dead simple, it’s hourly flexibility made such a system useless to the Greeks—they needed a day with fixed-length increments. Hipparchus, considered by many to be the greatest astronomer in antiquity, is credited with synthesizing the Egyptian star clock into the standardized equinoctial clock we use today, wherein each period of light and dark on the Equinoxes is divided into 12 equal-length segments.

Now, if only someone could explain why we still bother with Daylight Savings.