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U.S. Moves to Kill Leap Seconds

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the time-to-kill dept.

United States 601

blacklite001 writes "Not content with merely extending Daylight Savings Time, the U.S. government now also proposes to eliminate leap seconds, according to a Wall Street Journal story. Their proposal, 'made secretly to a United Nations body,' includes adding 'a "leap hour" every 500 to 600 years.' Hey, anyone remember the last bunch of people to mess with the calendar?"

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now correct me if im wrong (5, Insightful)

thegoogler (792786) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201741)

but it seems to be working perfectly fine as it is, why fuck with it?

Re:now correct me if im wrong (0, Troll)

slashjunkie (800216) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201762)

Exactly. Perfect 24-hour days would result in time drift similar to cheap PC RTC chip (relative to actual astonomical time that is). Tweaking by a leap second now and then is far less disruptive than tweaking by an hour every 500-600 years (not that it will be any of OUR problems). If there were going to be radical changes made to timekeeping, I expect that decimal time would be the top candidate. Have they thought about redefining the length of a second (and consequently minute, hour) to achieve these perfect 24-hour days? ...usual short-sighted thinking by the Americans.

Re:now correct me if im wrong (3, Insightful)

jbrandon (603700) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201834)

Tweaking by a leap second now and then is far less disruptive than tweaking by an hour every 500-600 years.

Why? If we switch to leap hours, the only software (and that's what the change is about) that will be disrupted by the change will be software that has to be working 500-600 years from now. A lot of programs could safely ignore leap hours, unlike now, when many programs can't ignore leap seconds.

If there were going to be radical changes made to timekeeping, I expect that decimal time would be the top candidate.

Well, this isn't a radical change like decimal time, in that it will have zero effect on John Doe's wrist watch. Second, decimal time is not exclusive with the leap hour; we could do both.

Have they thought about redefining the length of a second (and consequently minute, hour) to achieve these perfect 24-hour days?

Well, we actually can't predict too accurately the rate of the slowing of the Earth's rotation. Leap seconds are added not on a regular schedule, but only when astronomical measurements show they must be.

usual short-sighted thinking by the Americans.

Oh, I get it; you were trolling.

Re:now correct me if im wrong (5, Informative)

Daverd (641119) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201842)

Have they thought about redefining the length of a second

The second is one of the fundamental units in the metric system. Many other units and constants are based on the second. For example, the speedometer in your car shows miles per hour, the speed of light is given in meters per second, etc. If we changed the value of the second, then either:
a. We'd be forcing the world scientific community to relearn an entire set of new constants, or, more likely,
b. There would be two definitions of the 'second', the US definition and the scientific definition.

I don't think either of these is really what we want.

Re:now correct me if im wrong (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201892)

the speed of light is given in meters per second
 
So then if a second was made longer then a spaceship whose velocity was approaching C would be able to go faster than it does now! Sweet!

Re:now correct me if im wrong (1)

cosmic_gravy (902874) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201964)

The second "is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom at zero kelvins." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second [wikipedia.org]

There is a shift, currently, to move all the fundamental constants (most importantly the kilogram) to be based on natural phenomena instead of, for example, a block of platinum-iridium sitting in a vault in France. The definition of a meter is already based on the speed of light.

Apparently not... (4, Informative)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201788)

According to TFA, it isn't working perfectly fine:
But adding these ad hoc "leap seconds" -- the last one was tacked on in 1998 -- can be a big hassle for computers operating with software programs that never allowed for a 61-second minute, leading to glitches when the extra second passes. "It's a huge deal," said John Yuzdepski, an executive at Symmetricom Inc., of San Jose, Calif., which makes ultraprecise clocks for telecommunications, space and military use.

On Jan. 1, 1996, the addition of a leap second made computers at Associated Press Radio crash and start broadcasting the wrong taped programs. In 1997, the Russian global positioning system, known as Glonass, was broken for 20 hours after a transmission to the country's satellites to add a leap second went awry. And in 2003, a leap-second bug made GPS receivers from Motorola Inc. briefly show customers the time as half past 62 o'clock.

"A lot of people encounter problems with their software going over a leap second," said Dennis D. McCarthy, who drafted the U.S. leap-second proposal while serving as the Navy's "Director of Time."

Now, I can't say that I completely understand why resetting a clock should be so complicated, but it seems to cause problems...

Re:Apparently not... (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201867)

What I don' understand, maybe because I'm not an engineer, is why is it so difficult ?

isnt it akin to holding the clock back for an extra second ? Cant you write a script that say 'when i hit this button, pause for one second then reset the clock'?

Re:Apparently not... (1, Redundant)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201904)

You do not even have to add seconds, just stretch the last few seconds on those computers. That is done all the time by programs as ntp, and it affects nobody. That in reality there has been a leap second, and the real clock has a slight programming problem, is not a big deal to anybody. That clock is an independent object which does not control any other real objects (except ntp, which will just ignore second 61 as an error, and wait for a correct time to come by, which will come a few seconds later).

The US is looking for problems where there are none.

Die - leap seconds - Die! (1)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201913)

In addition to the weirdness of having second 60 in a minute, you get that added headache that leap seconds are non-deterministic... you can't predict ahead of time when they will happen. Imagine you make a very precise schedule in advance (e.g. scheduled events on a spacecraft) and then a leap second is announced and everything is then off by a second. Now you have all of these tables out there that are wrong that you have to find and then correct... a major headache when your working with something where precision in time is important (e.g. a spacecraft moving at 8 km/s).

Re:Apparently not... (5, Insightful)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201966)

So instead of letting private companies eventually wise up and write their software to take into account/be able to deal with leap seconds, let's fuck with the entire way we measure time on a global scale. Way to go government.

Re:Apparently not... (5, Interesting)

Entrope (68843) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201970)

Resetting the clock is not complicated, but the current system means there is a 61st second in a minute, as your quote of TFA mentions. People -- including software developers -- are strongly used to dealing with 60-second minutes, and software sometimes makes that assumption. It just requires attention (sometimes a lot of attention) and extra code (sometimes a lot of extra code) to get it right, but since very few people pay attention when a leap second happens, bugs are easily overlooked.

Since leap seconds are based on changes in the time period of Earth's rotation (the sidereal day), and the decay is both very slow and influenced by hard-to-predict factors, leap seconds are not reliably predictable. They can only be announced when they are necessary -- and so it is easy for the displayed time to drift if a leap second announcement is missed or ignored.

Leap hours, though, are different beasts. Virtually every piece of software in the world that displays time knows how to deal with the hour jumping forward or backward. That transition happens predictably and affects a huge number of users, so errors are easily noted.

Stupid Stupid Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201987)

The whole argument that leap seconds are inconvienient is based on the fact that the polynomial used to approximate leap days appears to be exact except for leap seconds. The problem is that the Earth's rotation isn't guaranteed to be that accurate. A major geophysical event or near miss from an asteroid could change that. That would be ironic. We survive a near miss from an asteroid only to be done in by hard coded calendar conversions that make the y2k diaster that never happened look like a picnic.

What programmers should be doing is using a calendar api to do calendar arithmetic. What next? Banning the business and religious calendars? Those are not very predictable either in some cases.

Re:now correct me if im wrong (0, Troll)

L0C0loco (320848) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201815)

Logistically, it is a nightmare the way it is. Operation of space-based assets is a particular problem. Many of them need millisecond (if not microsecond) clock accuracy for pointing and position information. These usually feed data into custom software that can be quite old. In some cases the systems are old enough that the source code may not exist. Workarounds are a pain to implement. It should be pretty safe to assume that adding a leap hour 500 years from now won't have these problems.

Re:now correct me if im wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201875)

Ask an age-old question, get an age-old answer.

If government leaves well enough alone, then what's in it for government?

Re:now correct me if im wrong (1)

xcentrics (903559) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201905)

"Should the convenience of lazy computer programmers triumph over the rising of the sun? To the government, which worries about safety more than astronomy, the answer is yes."

thats it.

ppl affraid about y2k problem but think this is so easy to change duration of minute.That may lead to serious trouble.

Re:now correct me if im wrong (3, Interesting)

Tekoneiric (590239) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201963)

The problem is that it isn't working fine. To begin with we should have 13 months in the year, not 12. Months are supposed to reflect lunar cycles and there are 13 of them a year. The year is one day and some change longer than 13 (28 day) months a year. Ever noticed how the business world works off 13 periods a year? and of course the menstrual cycles too. Take a look at this [wikipedia.org] sometimes.

Unfair to clockophiles! (2, Funny)

shobadobs (264600) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201743)

http://leapsecond.com/ [leapsecond.com] -- This guy should complain. They're taking all the fun out of his clock collection!

Re:Unfair to clockophiles! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201764)

At least he's got http://leaphour.com/ [leaphour.com] as well.

Re:Unfair to clockophiles! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201820)

Not really, seeing as old clocks will become even more of antiquities compared to clocks following the newer scheme.

Re:Unfair to clockophiles! (1)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201953)

http://leapsecond.com/

so much for people with too much time on their hands.

Re:Unfair to clockophiles! (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201980)

That would be "Horologist."

For anyone who thinks they might be interested in such things, or is simply curious as to why anyone might be interested in such things, I can highly recommend:

Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World; David S. Landes; Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press

KFG

Wait a second... (1)

ahknight (128958) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201746)

I say the government should move to Internet time and leave the big boy alone. Looks like that already does what it wants...

Re:Wait a second... (2, Funny)

l33t.g33k (903780) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201758)

it's government conspiracy!

Re:Wait a second... (1)

kassemi (872456) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201768)

I'd be happier with unix timestamps... Programming date/time dependent applications would be sooo much easier...

Re:Wait a second... (2, Funny)

ArAgost (853804) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201775)

Mod parent funny for its subject, please :D

Only the (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201748)

tick makes 1 hour leaps

Birthdays (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201749)

And what about all those people with birthdays on February 29th? Guess they'll only age once every 500 years

Re:Birthdays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201759)

well I guess it would only happen to those retards who don't know the difference between a leap second and a leap year.
rtfs

Re:Birthdays (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201899)

If you really want to be technically corrent, 29th of february is a leap day occuring every fourth year except when it can be divided by 100 but not 400.

A leap year would be a whole new year inserted in the calendar, and it's a possibility in the future that something like this may happen.

Re:Birthdays (1)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201947)

A leap year would be a whole new year inserted in the calendar, and it's a possibility in the future that something like this may happen.

Maybe the extra year will be called 2005½.

Re:Birthdays (2, Insightful)

ahknight (128958) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201977)

A leap year would be a whole new year inserted in the calendar, and it's a possibility in the future that something like this may happen.

No, it's not. The point of leap periods is to maintain the length of the day and the year to their astronomical counterparts. Inserting a year would do absolutely no good towards any end as there is no astronomical measurement beyond a year that is used in the standard time measurements.

snore... (1, Redundant)

ewe2 (47163) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201754)

like this actually helps to fix an already-broken calendar. There are many alternatives but legislators like to pull these stupid stunts to avoid actual real decisions.

Why? (0, Troll)

Shark (78448) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201755)

... 'cause we've got the bomb!

Disclaimer: This refering to a quote, don't 'troll' me because you don't know Denis Leary.

Re:Why? (1)

tarquin_fim_bim (649994) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201799)

... 'cause we've got the bomb!

Do you have clocks in North Korea?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201916)

"John Wayne's not dead, he's frozen. And as soon as we find a cure for cancer we're gunna thaw out The Duke and he's gunna be pretty pissed off. You know why? Have you ever taken a cold shower? Well, multiply that by fifteen million times and thats how pissed off Teh Duke's gunna be."

Marvellous...

Heh (1)

the Man in Black (102634) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201756)

Hey, anyone remember the last bunch of people to mess with the calendar?"

Heh. OK that's funny. And true. /and sad

Re:Heh (1)

gid13 (620803) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201813)

And let's not forget Turkmenistan, whose leader, "The father of all Turkmen", renamed the months of the year after family members and anything else he liked. Not that he messed with the actual times or anything, but it's still freakish.

Leap Minute (3, Insightful)

GeekWade (623925) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201757)

Wouldn't a leap minute every couple of generations be better than being close to an hour off base for a hundred years or so?

Re:Leap Minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201776)

When did you last heard a politician making sense?

I mean, you surely wouldn't expect them to make legislation which would come in effect from 600 years now on, right?

Re:Leap Minute (0, Troll)

slashjunkie (800216) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201787)

This reminds me of the space probe NASA lost due to confusion over metric/imperial measurements - http://www.space.com/news/orbiter_error_990930.htm l [space.com] Do we really trust America to mess with standards?

Re:Leap Minute (1)

GeekWade (623925) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201828)

That is exactly what I was thinking about. Remembering and adjusting for daylight savings time is a pain, but imagine the hell of some nerd a few hundred years from now having to account for 42 minutes and some odd seconds of Leap Hour adjustments.

And we bitch about counting seconds from 1970, sheesh...

-wade

Re:Leap Minute (1)

xs650 (741277) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201901)

Not a problem. We presently work up to a full day off base every 4 years.

What problems do you expect from being up to an hour off base if everyone is off the same amount?

GMT R.I,P. (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201761)

Just to say that, TFA to the contrary, Greenwich Mean Time was scrapped years ago as being too expensive to maintain the equipment.

So while there may be plenty of brits that think this is a silly idea (me included) it's got bog all to do with GMT.

HTH

Can we say what we will think 500 years from now? (5, Insightful)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201765)

Sometimes, with our very limited 80 year lifespans, we start to think that everything that we do now is the absolutely most important thing ever, and we make decisions based on that rather than looking to history for a sense of scale. 500 years ago, people weren't reading, they weren't really doing much of anything productive. It wasn't until the Renaissance that things really started humming.

So 500 years from now, with a whole hour of time slip, what will they think of how we just decided to change the manner in which we adjust time?

In China, there is only one timezone, but it works terribly since half the country wakes up in the dark and the other half wakes up in bright sunlight. They have adapted to this by "unofficially" setting work hours according to the longitudinal timezone rather than the government-mandated timezone. I wonder if there were a huge leap second buildup whether people would just start waking up according to the absolute time rather than the political time.

I think it's a bad idea, and I can't think of the benefits. But I guess I'm not a scientist, so I wouldn't understand those issues.

Re:Can we say what we will think 500 years from no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201840)

500 years ago, people weren't reading, they weren't really doing much of anything productive. It wasn't until the Renaissance that things really started humming.

May I suggest you learn some history before you argue that people should learn from it? 500 years ago, the so-called Renaissance had already been going on for about 100 years in most of Europe. Printing was 50 years old, and the mass-production of books had begun in earnest. If "people weren't reading", who the hell was buying them all, do you think? Come to that, if "people weren't really doing much of anything productive", where the hell do you think printing came from? Did Gutenberg's press fall fully-formed from the sky or something?

Oh, and the "renaissance" is over-rated. The middle ages were the big days when important things were invented - things like representative democracy that you might just have heard of?

Re:Can we say what we will think 500 years from no (2, Funny)

cheesee (97693) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201929)

Oh, and the "renaissance" is over-rated. The middle ages were the big days when important things were invented - things like representative democracy that you might just have heard of?

Yeah, I've heard of it. Haven't seen it in action yet.

Re:Can we say what we will think 500 years from no (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201932)

"things were invented - things like representative democracy that you might just have heard of?"

No, thats Athens...

Re:Can we say what we will think 500 years from no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201928)

So 500 years from now, with a whole hour of time slip, what will they think of how we just decided to change the manner in which we adjust time?

Oh, come on, our descendents can change it too! They have 500 years to find a better system.

I think it's a bad idea, and I can't think of the benefits.

Try looking at the benefits not compared to a fairy tale, but compared to our current leap second system.

But I guess I'm not a scientist, so I wouldn't understand those issues.

Agreed, but nothing prevents you from getting karma on slashdot.

The _last_ bunch? (1)

hism (561757) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201769)

Hey, anyone remember the last bunch of people to mess with the calendar?

I may not be 100% correct on this, but I'm sure there are more recent examples of the 'last' bunch of people messing with the calender? What about Robespierre during the Reign of Terror for the French Revolution.

Re:The _last_ bunch? (2, Informative)

Wieland (830777) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201839)

Also, IIRC, before the 1917 revolution the Russians were still using the Julian Calendar. The communists adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918, which is why the so-called October Revolution was actually commemorated yearly on November the 7th.

More info (5, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201772)

More info here [ucolick.org] , with geeky charts and stuff.
over the past 30 years (coincidentally since the inception of leap seconds) the rotation of the earth's crust has accelerated. This acceleration is apparently due to changes of fluid circulation in the outer core of the earth. Historical investigations of earth rotation indicate that such accelerations are not unprecedented, and it should not be possible for the acceleration to continue for very many more years.

Hmm... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201774)

I don't see anywhere in the U.S. Constitution that the government has been given authority over time. I guess strict constructionism [wikipedia.org] applies only to judges and not the government. Bummer... There's never a Time Lord [bbc.co.uk] when you need one.

Re:Hmm... (5, Informative)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201912)

Powers granted to the Congress of the States:

Section 8, Clause 5: To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures

Time is a measure, therefore they actually do thave the authority to regulate it.

Re:Hmm... (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201988)

A Slashdot posting that is accurate, concise and on topic - what's this world coming to???

Congratulations (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201785)

Congratulations on solving all your other problems, America. Keep up the fine work.

Lazy Americans... (1)

daviq (888445) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201786)

We Americans are so lazy that now we cannot take the effort to change our clocks a mere 2 times a year. And why do we have a 24 hour day anyways. Instead we could just have a 23 and whatever hour day and not ever have to change our clocks.

Re:Lazy Americans... (1)

MSZ (26307) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201853)

Actually the whole "dayligh savings" idea has lost it's usefulness years ago. Yet by pure inertia it lives on.

The savings from the time change are much less than a cost of doing that.

Unfortunately, the cost of eliminating this idiocy is to big now :-(

America bad (-1, Troll)

Reeee (902901) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201789)

America bad, criticize everything America do, America bad.

Drink some ball you fat Euro-trash bitches.

neat bit (2, Insightful)

putko (753330) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201790)

This bit is neat:

"The U.S. effort to abolish leap seconds is also firmly opposed by Britain, which would further lose status as the center of time. From 1884 to 1961, the world set its official clocks to Greenwich Mean Time, based on the actual rise and set of the stars as seen from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, just outside London."

I had no idea there was still a physical basis for this. I assumed there was a master atomic clock.

I can see why the USA would do this: they move around the holidays to fit the work week (e.g. Monday or Friday, whichever's closest). Try doing that with Corpus Christi in Continental Europe: it would be considered totally absurd.

Re:neat bit (2, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201857)

yeah, there IS a master atomic clock (or more like a cluster, with each clock weighted differently).
(also note that this ends 61, about the time atomic clocks became usable)

Re:neat bit (2, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201972)

"From 1884 to 1961, the world set its official clocks to Greenwich Mean Time, based on the actual rise and set of the stars as seen from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, just outside London."

I had no idea there was still a physical basis for this. I assumed there was a master atomic clock.

I'm fairly certain there was no atomic clock in 1884. hances are, the atomic clocks arrived on the scene around, oh, 1961 maybe?

Torino conference notes (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201793)

I found this mailing-list message to be very interetsing and informative:

http://www.mail-archive.com/leapsecs@rom.usno.navy .mil/msg00163.html/ [mail-archive.com]

Brief excerpt:

I also gave a presentation of leap second issues in distributed
computing, presented the UTS proposal and argued that something like it,
together with more carefully implemented NTP software, would in practice
eliminate computer worries about leap seconds, without a need to change UTC
arising from this area. I also argued that the message formats of
pre-GPS time broadcast services such as the various LF and HF time
stations leave much to be desired and that work on a globally
standardized state-of-the-art signal format would be a timely and
important project.

http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/c-time/torino2003/u tc-torino-slides.pdf [cam.ac.uk]

Finally, on the afternoon of the second day (Thursday, 29 May), the
agenda moved to writing up a draft conclusion of the colloquium, which
was then to be refined and phrased out more carefully by the
invitation-only SRG meeting on Friday.

Ron Beard with William Klepczynski drafted in PowerPoint on the
presentation laptop a list of objectives and conclusions for the
meeting. They started out with a few very pro-change statements, that
quickly attracted criticism from the audience as perhaps not being a
quite adequate reflection of the discussion at the colloquium.
Throughout the subsequent discussion, I had the impression that they
were rather happy to include pro-change arguments and statements that
were proposed by participants into the draft, but were very reluctant to
include any of the more sceptical/conservative statements that were, as
far as I could tell, proposed equally often. In the following coffee
break, a number of participants noted on their impression that the
organizers of the colloquium probably had already made up their mind on
the death of UTC and would push this through ITU in any case.

When is the hour added? (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201800)

When does the next 500 year period end?

How is it safer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201804)

And just how much safer is an hour jump every 500-600 years than a second jump every couple of years? Instead of Y2K we'll have YhourK a few hundred years from now. Since nobody will be expecting it there will be chaos.

Planet (5, Funny)

dinkster (750021) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201805)

I say we adjust the planet's rotation and orbit so we have perfect intervals.

Re:Planet (2, Informative)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201863)

This whole stuff reminds me of Xerxes [wikipedia.org] who ordered the punishment of the sea because the sea consumed his war fleet. When i mean punishment, i mean "whipping the sea". Makes sense if you're arrogant enough, i suppose.

Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201808)

Will scientists then have to develop their own calendar that is actually accurate then? That would be strange. I'm all for the elmination of DST anyhow, but Leap seconds/hours/days are just a fact of the universe when you measure time by the rotation of an object that is slowing down ever so slowly.

Shall the rest of the world.. (2, Funny)

speights_pride! (898232) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201810)

...go back to the Imperial system of measures too? Nah, bless you Americans with your lovely paper size known as Letter (and every wierd piece of software that insists on using it).

Re:Shall the rest of the world.. (0)

william_w_bush (817571) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201919)

dude, what's an a4?

haha, yeah sorry, my bad, but it is funny. just like all you bastards running around with American Express and Starbucks.

The Foot Will Rise Again!

How will our operating systems handle this? (1)

smoothwallsamuel (753105) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201823)

Will Windows XP tell me to send an error report to Microsoft because the clock died?

Leap seconds are dying? (1)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201829)

Has Netcraft confirmed this as of yet?

Oh No! (0, Flamebait)

Luscious868 (679143) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201831)

The big, bad US goverment following the lead of the terrorist Bush, wishes to subvert the world by eliminating leap seconds. Give me a break! Remove the tinfoil hat ... I realize how hard that is for most of the slashbot liberal groupthink crowd but seriously, it's time to get over it. The only thing being proposed is to extend daylight savings time. It would take an act of Congress to eliminate leap seconds and any bill being proposed by Congress can be read online. Something like this would NEVER pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by Bush ... as much as you hate him, it just wouldn't happen. Abortion on demand has a better shot at becoming law than anything like this, and anyone who knows anything about the current political climate in Washington knows how likely that is to happen. Just bide your time until he's out of office and then convince as many of your buddies as you can to vote for a Democrat is 2008. I'm getting sick and fucking tired of your conspiricy theories about Bush and co trying to take over the world.

Best quote of the article (4, Insightful)

Cybertect (85900) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201833)

The astronomers are not convinced. "If your navigation system causes two planes to crash because of a one-second error, you have worse problems than leap seconds," said Steve Allen, a University of California astronomer who maintains a Web site about leap seconds.

That's so right.

Big leap of faith... (4, Informative)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201836)

Leap seconds and leap days aren't related. Leap days are related to the need to make a year's length expressible in integral number of days by a sort of infinite series approximation. Unless the length of a year were an actual integral number of days, leap days would be needed even if there was no "slowing" ever. By contrast, leap seconds are added to accomodate "slowing" and are not an artifact of the original relation. The use of the term "leap" for both of these is probably what attracts politicians to "leap" to the rescue. Perhaps they should take a second to reconsider...

I actually agree that leap seconds are a bit of a mess, and I wouldn't mind seeing a better solution. But the one proposed sounds a bit bizarre. Surely the real problem is an artifact of the infancy of computer systems and the ad hoc, non-general solutions to time representation we've been using due to very small address spaces that are rapidly falling by the wayside. Why not just delay the issuing of them for a couple of decades until we can think harder about the problem. Pretending that any law passed now is going to stand unused for hundreds of years before it has any effect seems a little ... arrogant. I'm pretty sure that, say, somewhere around 2027, we're going to have a lot of discussion about our present representation of time and whether it's the right one...

Re:Big leap of faith... (1)

maniac1860 (567470) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201985)

I would say this is sort of what they are doing. This sort of thing doesn't make it any harder to make fixes in the future, it just gives a drop dead fix date sometime in the far future if we never figure out a better solution.

yea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201843)

yea this is great, FINALLY i get to post ahead of all you .......... something. hah.

Ahemm, French Revolutionary Calendar anyone?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201845)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolutionary_ Calendar [wikipedia.org]

It was tried again and again to change the calendar.
Mr. Gregory XIII was only the last one who did it successfully.

Another worthy change (1)

manifestcommunisto (641699) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201846)

Along with this proposal, it would also be a good idea to switch our time-keeping to metric units, just like the Geek Coucil in "The Simpsons" did. Well, ya know, some programmers got families to feed. And I've been dreaming of owning a boat for a while now...

The connected geek question (4, Interesting)

astrashe (7452) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201847)

The article talks about lots of problems that leap seconds cause with software.

The problems don't come from the complexity of the underlying problem of adding leap seconds, but rather because leap seconds are added so infrequently that the code to handle the leap seconds isn't well tested.

So the real question here (to me, at least) is this: what do the leap second problems tell us about how software is developed?

Are people not thinking about leap seconds when they write code? Or are they thinking about them, but not testing the leap second cases properly? What's going on?

And how does the emergence of really big collections of APIs affect this? I mean, if people use standard routines for calendar functions, and if people keep their tools up to date, shouldn't these problems be mitigated? Shouldn't we be able to have some hard core calendar geeks solve the problem once in the API, and carry the rest of us?

If that doesn't work, why not?

We can solve this particular problem by changing the calendar. But what if we couldn't, and we had to try to address it with engineering practices? How would we proceed?

Re:The connected geek question (1)

lahosken (24108) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201959)

I agree: because leap seconds are so obscure, people don't test their code to work with them. Thus, making the leap-whatevers happen less frequently will make the problem worse.

Letting the problem pile up for 500 years is the same kind of blinkered short-cut thinking that led to the Y2K fiasco.

No Problem (0, Troll)

Ed Almos (584864) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201852)

When I navigate using a compass (yes, some of us still do) I need to know the difference between magnetic north and true north. This figure is either subtracted or added to my compass bearing so that I get to my destination.

All the astronomers need to do is know the difference between UTC and the true time then either add or subtract it. I'm sure that this could be done within the software that manages the positioning of the telescope.

Ed Almos
Budapest, Hungary

Leap seconds - unamerican! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201854)

The problem seems to be in adding a leap second every now and then, because computers they don't like it. "Well, what the hell, earth's movement for us Americans is not that important after all". Now that's what I call stupidity. Just deal with damn leap seconds. Could deal with Y2K, can deal with this.

last to mess with calendar (2)

jedijacket (614666) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201855)

Wasn't it Gregor (on the same wikipedia link) who was the last to mess with the calendar? Essentially, they moved back several days because leap days weren't correctly accounted for prior to then.

Double Standard? (1)

Saxerman (253676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201862)

So, it's okay to play with daylight savings time [slashdot.org] but this leap second is a pain and needs to go?

Stardate 1.00 ! (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201865)

From the article:
In Mr. Allen's view, absolutely not. "Time has basically always really meant what you measure when you put a stick in the ground and look at its shadow," he said.

I couldn't agree more.

The only sensible alternative is that we no longer keep time based on celestial mechanics, and we abolish leap days/year, daylight savings and the 365 day year too. Those are annoying to programmers like myself too.

Let's start counting in Stardates !

Here, I'll take care of all the trolling for you (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201873)

1. The Americans want to do X.
2. The Americans are bad.
3. Therefore, X is bad. QED.

Government secrets (1)

David Horn (772985) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201883)

To use the time-honoured method of finding out government secrets, you read about them in tomorrow's newspaper...

Lemme guess... (0, Troll)

radtea (464814) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201884)

Hey, anyone remember the last bunch of people to mess with the calendar?

Withouth bothering to follow the link, I'd guess that'd be the Committee for Public Safety, yes?

What a nice, anti-terrorist sound that name has.

di34 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201897)

inaccurate (1)

Keruo (771880) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201900)

Why bother with hour system if we're changing the calendar/time in first place?

It would make much more sense to use more accurate measuring system like one that bases on half-life of isotopes.

Of course it would be rather inconvenient to say it's 12*10^6 past last decay of u-358, but it could be commonplace already to our great grandchildren.

Re:inaccurate (1)

Keruo (771880) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201911)

and apparently I'm coming up with new isotopes too.. that was intended to say u-238, rather than 358..

oh well, need more coffee

Build your own Y2K bug. (1)

rhizomania (811480) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201902)

Ok, so at some indeterminate time in the future* the US goverment proposes bestwoing upon the world an hours change in time.
Do they really expect people to plan for this event?
They will not, and will care even less than Y2K, as your clock will only be out by an hour.
Most people will have to shift their computer 1 time zone back/forward.
I'm pretty certain that there's

This is passing the buck to future generations.
It is better to have a working system now, with the occasional bug, than a spectacular IT crisis/fiasco in 500 year's time.

*I suspect we don't undersand the orbital mechanics or our solar system enough to decide now exactly when the leap hour will be inserted

This is so stupid and short sighted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13201915)

Does anyone actually believe that governments 250 years in the future are going to put up time that is half an hour off? The US sucks.

Why a secret proposal? (-1, Troll)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201917)

That's a bit confusing. Well, it's not secret anymore, so I guess it's now a national security issue for USA, and the War Against Inaccurate Time can now start being advertised on FOX News.

It's beyond me why anyone would want this. Why are they sacrificing day rythm accuracy for this? There must be some major problems as it is now, as, well, hour accuracy can be a *cough* little important to maintain... It never crossed anyone's minds that we've so far made second adjustment for it to not grow too large? The article says:

The plan would simplify the world's timekeeping by making each day last exactly 24 hours. Right now, that's not always the case.

Simplify for whom? Grr, so annoying with articles like these that don't even answer the most obvious questions arising from it. This minor adjustment is by far outweighed by most regular clocks' inaccuracy, and for those running atomic clocks, gee, a work that takes place once a year. What's the problem? You haven't heard a bit from them telling that this has been an issue before.

Also, I think I'm soon going to start a petition to legalize killing people who use "kill" in article titles to make them look more cool and exciting. Good luck in killing any kind of seconds. I'm sure they'll fight against you furiously and recommend a shotgun.

George Bush says: (1)

WizardRahl (840191) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201931)

"We must eliminate these leap seconds with their ideology of hate!"

Keep it the same (1)

maxrate (886773) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201941)

I think what happens now is like the 'take a penny, leave a penny' dish.

What they are proposing is like 'rounding to the nearest nickle'--no pennies.

Althought I like the nickle thing (pennies suck!), we need pennies to keep the books balanced. Let's not go chaning the way we do time, just for the odd penny every year.

Tripping over pennies when there are bigger things across the street -- sheesh!

Astronomers will be unhappy (4, Insightful)

RayBender (525745) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201952)

Doing away with leap seconds has the effect of breaking the connection between the rotation of the Earth and time. The point of a leap second was to compensate for the fact that the Earth changes its rotation rate by very small amounts (due to changes in mass distribution).

It will make it harder to run telescopes, but also a number of navigational devices. The mention of the Glonass screwup is actually misleading - even if you abolish the leap second, you still have to have software in your satellites compensate for changes in Earth rotation rates - abolishing the leap second will not change that at all.

Probably the worst argument for getting rid of leap seconds is "they are rare anomalous events that cause potential danger for systems like ATC that are tightly coupled to time". That's misleading, though, because the proposal is actually to replace leap seconds with leap hours every 500 years. Which means that you replace a small, bi-annual anomaly with a gigantic one 500 years from now (on a scale larger than the Y2K bug, for sure.) Kicking the problem down the road so to speak - I'm not surprised it was originally suggested by a bunch of lazy programmers. Not to mention that that practice would mean that 400 years from now solar noon would be almost an hour away from actual noon (not that big a deal, of course, but annoying).

The argment for keeping the leap second is more than just tradition - it has practical value too.

The last people to mess with the calendar (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201960)

Would be the French. Metric weeks and all that.

Haha.

I tried messing with the calander once, (1)

pakog (796037) | more than 9 years ago | (#13201968)

iv never made it on time to a dentists apointment since
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