‘Leap’ Time

June 29, 2015

Surreal-Artworks-Made-by-Xetobyte-1Overcast with occasional faded sunlight this afternoon, and feels a bit more chilly, too, than lately — the coastal fog bank seems to have hugged-tighter today, makes a huge difference.

Also maybe a big difference tomorrow, and again, maybe not — Tuesday evening we’ll all receive an extra ‘leap second,’ due to a minor time desynchronization between physical-earth time, and our ‘regular’ clock time: ‘The “positive leap second” will be introduced just after the 23:59:59 mark Tuesday, minutely delaying the onset of July.’

Apparently, the planet is just slowing down.

(Illustration: ‘A Break in Reality,’ by Xetobyte found here).

Another news bit I guess went unnoticed until this afternoon, but maybe got lost in all the carnage lately.
Anyhow, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) will add the ‘leap second‘ to co-ordinate Universal Time (UT), set by the Earth’s rotation, and International Atomic Time (TAI), the average from about 200 atomic clocks worldwide.
Supposedly, these ‘seconds‘ can be be (‘safely?’) added at the end of December or June, and have been in use nearly 45 years.
Some background via CBS News:

Leap seconds were first introduced in 1972 to compensate for variations in the Earth’s speed.
Atomic clocks are more accurate and consistent than the Earth’s rotation, which can pull the UT and TAI a tad out of whack when it slows.
Adding an extra second to the Universal Time gets them back in synch.
From 1972 through 1999, leap seconds were added at a rate averaging close to one per year.
Since then, leap seconds have become less frequent.
This year’s leap second — planned for back in January — will be only the fourth to be added since 2000.
The last leap second came at the end of June 2012, and though it surely went by unnoticed in most people’s lives, it did cause the disruption of several websites whose server clocks were suddenly off the mark.

And the big angle on this upcoming event:

“In the short term, leap seconds are not as predictable as everyone would like,” said Chopo Ma, a geophysicist at Goddard and a member of the directing board of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.
“The modeling of the Earth predicts that more and more leap seconds will be called for in the long-term, but we can’t say that one will be needed every year.”

Tuesday’s ‘leap second‘ is different than those in the past in terms of possible chaos.
In our new high-tech computerized era, this the first time that a ‘leap second‘ has occurred during working hours since the markets went pure-electronic, now $4.6 million in stocks are traded worldwide every single second, and then a leap…
From Bloomberg Business:

It’s scheduled for 8 p.m. in New York, just when markets in Asia are opening, and exchanges around the world are taking no chances.
U.S. stock markets are ending some after-hours trading early and others from Sydney to Tokyo are recalibrating their clocks ahead of time.
Trading firms also have to be prepared, said Greg Wood, president of the Futures Industry Association’s division that oversees market technology.
“The system is only as strong as its weakest link,” Wood said.
“There are going to be issues.”
The wider world, too, has to be ready.
In 2012, Qantas Airways Ltd. and Reddit Inc., among others, suffered glitches on their websites.
As modern life has become more and more digital, the potential for snags when clocks go from 11:59:59 to 11:59:60, instead of straight to 12:00:00, has risen.
The time warp has the potential of making mischief with law enforcement, voice and data services, utilities and weapons systems.
About 10 percent of large-scale computer networks will encounter hiccups due to the leap second, said Geoff Chester, public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, which keeps time for the world’s biggest military.
“With the leap second, you count 61 seconds in a minute, and that’s where the problems lie,” Chester said.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of firms around the world now trade everything from stocks to junk bonds to interest-rate derivatives electronically.
The fastest of them has the ability to react in millionths of a second.

Beyond the turbulence with the financial markets, and maybe our laptops, I don’t really know how it will actually play — the 2000 thingy was way-much ado about nothing.

A good-detailed, nerd view of this ‘leap second‘ event can be found via David Yanofsky at Quartz, who says the ‘leap second‘ shit should be abolished.
The reason:

The leap second is a near paradox.
It befuddles all common definitions of time.
Notionally, it’s a way to unify all our ways of measuring time.
In reality, it’s just an attempt to preserve an old definition of time that has long since been superseded by newer methods.
In the process, the leap second—through no fault of its own—puts at risk countless critical computer systems around the world.
And that is forcing even the people who are charged with administering the world’s supply of leap seconds to consider getting rid of them altogether.

And modern life ain’t history:

There was a time where if a clock ran a five or ten minutes fast over the course of a day, it didn’t matter.
Everyone’s clocks were this inaccurate, and most activities didn’t require hour-by-hour synchronization.
A farmer doesn’t need to let the cows out at 6am. A farmer lets the cows out in the morning.
Even as urban life developed, time was a local determination.
Noon was when the clock on the bank or city hall said noon.
There wasn’t even a guarantee that the bank and city hall would agree to put the same time on their clocks.
And as for a clock a few towns away, let alone on the other side of the country, it didn’t matter if it showed the same time, because there was no way to get there fast enough to see the difference.

Yanofsky says it was the coming of railroads that caused the shift to more precise timing between people, places and things, and the concept just snowballed from there. A really-interesting read of a little-thought-about subject — until some timely shit goes wrong.

‘Leap’ before you clock…

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