‘Smearing’ the 2016 ‘Leap Second’

December 30, 2016

A quick-arriving marine layer this early Friday on California’s north coast blocked a clear, bright sunrise — despite the gray, it’s supposed to be ‘Mostly Sunny‘ today with no rain expected until Sunday.
Snow flurries forecast even on the shoreline for the opening hours of the new year, as a way-cold front is set to start 2017 with a shudder, and a cry.

Yet hold on to your party hats as horrible 2016 will last longer than normal — a second longer to be exact, allowing mischief to continue.

(Illustration: Salvador Dali’s ‘Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion,’ found here).

As if to rub our collective noses in the mire of 2016, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, or IERS, has announced a “leap second” will be added to our clocks at the end of December, supposedly to bring the world’s atomic clocks in sync with the Earth’s own distinctive rhythm, which in this case is determined by its rotation. Nothing weird, though, as such action has been taken numerous times since 1971.

Peter Whibberley, senior research scientist with NPL’s time and frequency group, explained: ‘“Atomic clocks are more than a million times better at keeping time than the rotation of the Earth, which fluctuates unpredictably.
“Leap seconds are needed to prevent civil time drifting away from Earth time. Although the drift is small — taking around 1,000 years to accumulate a one-hour difference — if not corrected it would eventually result in clocks showing midday before sunrise.”

Recent research appears to back up Whibberley’s assessment. According to a study published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, earth’s rotation has slowed about 1.8 milliseconds per day — which means the solar day itself has lengthened, little by little.
The researchers based this assessment on records dating back to 760 B.C., long before the implementation of the precise atomic clocks.
The Los Angeles Times broke down the findings: ‘“If humanity had been measuring time with an atomic clock that started running back in 700 BC, today that clock would read 7 p.m. when the sun is directly overhead rather than noon.”

Supposedly, we won’t feel that ‘leap second’ as at least Google will drag the blip out over time (PopularScience):

They call it “smearing.”
Instead of adding a second right at 11:59:59, they smear the extra second across many hours.
Their network time protocol is going to run 0.0014 percent slower for the 10 hours before and 10 hours after the leap second.
That’s such a small change that it’s effectively unnoticeable, and makes the adjustment easier on computers.

How about the ‘easier’ approach to us users — 2016 has been one of the shittiest years ever, and must it continue even one second longer? In reality, though, the real shit off 2016 will manifest itself in 2017, and at the real strike of midnight on Saturday/Sunday will ‘not’ loosen the bonds of 2016.
Yet life will continue — as characterized by this Op/Ed in the LA Times this morning:

This line of thinking might seem pessimistic, the result of a depressive tendency to highlight only the worst aspects of the past 12 months.
Some good things happened too, even if none immediately springs to mind.
But “worst year ever” comments are actually unnaturally optimistic.
To declare you’re “so over” 2016 is to assume that everything that made this year difficult will come to a hard stop when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31.
To declare 2016 the worst year ever carries the audacious implication that we can leave behind the negative things that happened and start fresh.

‘Fresh’ as just-dropped dog shit…

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