Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Phasing out the 'Leap Second'?

The most powerful countries in the world are being represented in Geneva, Switzerland (home of the Swiss cuckoo clock and the Swatch Watch brand) for a timely vote on the future of The Leap Second.

Oh cool, a wolf
Look first, LEAP SECOND
The Leap Second is a way to synchronise the hyper-accurate atomic clocks to the fluctuating schedule of planetary movements, on which our system of measuring time is based.
  • One rotation of the Earth = 1 Day
  • One trip around the Sun = 1 Year
It turns out that sometimes, the Earth doesn't spin fast enough to keep up with the atomic clocks around the globe, so scientists and astronomers have to insert a Leap Second in order for the Earth to catch up.

Click HERE for another wacky European time tale.

According to my calculations, abolishing the Leap Second would mean that after 100 years my watch battery would be dead. But if it didn't die, my watch would be 90 seconds fast in relation to the Earth. While this may not seem to be a big deal, multiply that discrepancy by about 50 millenia and you would find your clock would be out by 12 hours, meaning that high noon would come at midnight. No wonder the Eloi and the Morlocks were (will be) messed up.
Wells, Wells, Wells
"This needs split second timing"
Organizations and business including NASA, air traffic control and cell phone companies favor the abolishment of the Leap Second since they would not have to adjust their time sensitive systems every year or two to realign themselves with nature, at the behest of some scientist in Paris.

We as a species are not sensitive enough to notice 1 second per year difference, but the technology we have created is. And that is where the discussion and ultimately the vote in Switzerland hinges. Should we continue to add a second here and there to maintain synchronization, or should we let nature lag behind and worry about the difference when it becomes noticeable.

Leave a comment and let us know what YOU think. Nature or Science?

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