Saturday, June 30, 2012

Are you ready to extend your day by 0.001157 percent?

Yes, today is June 30, and it's a LEAP-SECOND DAY! Be cheerful, because for this day, thanks to more precise measurements of Earth's wobble - and that understanding leading to good time-keeping course-correction - we are all going to be able to spend an extra ONE SECOND to enjoy this last day of June. (Even for people living in East Asia, you'll still have time to get in on the game, since - unlike the the insertion of February 29 occurs as a whole day, and lasting a whole day, in everyone's one local - a leap second is inserted (almost magically into our construct of measured time) between 23:59:59 and 00:00:00 of the chosen UTC, which means that the whole globe will simultaneously experience this added second!

If you are getting worried about how scientists are trying to change the whole concept of lived time vs measured time - if the extra day in February (added every four years, save for each century) - gets you really wigged out and/or annoyed with the universe, then hopefully adding an extra second at the end of June (or sometimes at the end of December), then don't worry: a body of scientists that you've never heard of will decide (between now and 2015) whether to continue keeping radioactive time tied to solar time:
A leap second will be introduced on 30 June 2012 following a decision made by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) earlier this year. This could potentially be one of the last ever leap seconds added, as a decision may be made in the next few years to abolish the practice.
I mean, all of these added seconds - done irregularly once (or twice or never) every year - is just going to play all sorts of havoc in a world in which clock precision seems to be weighing ever more heavily in people's lives (international trading, for example, happens second-to-second and never stops; additions of a second here could prove problematic). However, it also seems really strange and stupid that no one has been able to design a clock that - you know - incorporates these changes automatically.

So: in one corner, corner of learning about leap seconds is a bit of a "wonder of science", but recognizing that some people don't like it because it may prove difficult for them (but seem unable to actually figure out that technology can help them with adding this into the time-keeping) is a bit "short-sightedness of people in the face of science that they don't like"...

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