Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Overthinking a Phrase II

You ever see this show?

I watched it when I was younger because... it was on TV. That's all the excuse I needed. Watched a few soaps back in the day...

Anyway, the classic line is "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives". Really? How much sand is that, then? First, how many days are we looking at? Taking the greatest scientific text of all, the bible, we get 70 days, according to Psalm 90:10. Multiplying by 365 (and adding in a splash for leap years), we get just over 25,500 days.

What about sand? Well, of course, it depends on the size of the hourglass and on the size of the sand. But let's take this answer. There are 5,000,000 grains in an hourglass. Hmm, rather more than days. 250,000 grains in a three minute timer... so, really, a 20 second timer would be more appropriate. That's, what... just over 110,000,000 seconds of our life compared to one second of the timer? Alternatively, if one grain in the hourglass was one day of our life, we should be living quite a bit longer...

You can see why people choose that metaphor, it's a finite amount, it dribbles away, can't be replenished, and then it is over. However, that's if you don't tip the hourglass over, so it's now horizontal. How many sand flows then? Or what if you smash the glass? Or up-end it, so sand flows the other way? Can you up-end your own life? Or how about if the hourglass is opened and more sand put in?

The phrase should be "Like sands through the hourglass that is fixed rigidly vertical and can't be tampered with, so are the days of our lives, assuming we live to 13,700 years old". Not quite as catchy.


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