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Vote To Eliminate Leap Seconds

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the making-y2k-look-like-a-walk-in-the-park dept.

Science 531

Mortimer.CA writes "As discussed on Slashdot previously, there is a proposal to remove leap seconds from UTC (nee 'Greenwich' time). It will be put to a vote to ITU member states during 2008, and if 70% agree, the leap second will be eliminated by 2013. There is some debate as to whether this change is a good or bad idea. The proposal calls for a 'leap-hour' in about 600 years, which nobody seems to believe is a good idea. One philosophical point opponents make is that the 'official' time on Earth should match the time of the sun and heavens."

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531 comments

Wait (5, Funny)

Monkeys!!! (831558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417603)

Just hang on a sec....

Metric time? (0)

drspliff (652992) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417617)

Can't we just find something that divides nicely between the time it takes light to travel between the sun & earth and the amount of time it takes for the earth to circle the sun once?

I really liked the Swatch "Internet Time", but I had doubts about its mathmatical soundness... however, wakingup at 250, having lunch at 500 and going to sleep at 750 would be nice :)

Re:Metric time? (5, Interesting)

daeley (126313) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417641)

The French tried Decimal time [wikipedia.org] (aka French Revolutionary Time) for a while, although of course the Chinese invented it [wikipedia.org] .

Decimal time always reminds me of the scene in Metropolis with two clocks on the office wall [wikipedia.org] -- a 24-hour clock and a 10-hour clock (the length of the workers' shifts).

Re:Metric time? (1, Interesting)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417929)


Decimalisation is over-rated anyway. People think it makes all the sums easier. Does in some ways, but for everyday life, other systems are easier. We used to have 120 pence to the pound in the UK. Much simpler when divvying up the bill at restaurants. Try dividing 100 by three people, four people, six people. Now try it with 120 or multiples thereof. But what about five and ten? Yeah - much harder with 120 (sarcasm).

Anyway, this ignoring the leap second is sounds like the usual case of wishful thinking you get between engineers and the customer when the customer has some niggling little requirement that spoils the engineer's elegant little solution. I'm sorry, but if I have to have some special case code because my client wants the search tool to work differently on the news page than it does on the rest of the pages (the bastard), then the world's scientists and engineers can bloody well have to model their customer requirements correctly. Especially when the specs have come directly from Reality. That's a pretty important customer.

Your post - Bollocks (5, Informative)

janrinok (846318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418133)

We used to have 120 pence to the pound in the UK

There were 240 pence to the old (pre-decimalisation) pound, comprised of 20 shillings each worth 12 (old) pence. Do you remember guineas, crowns, half-crowns, shillings, tanners (6-penny piece), threepenny bit, pennies, half-pennies, farthings (a quarter penny)? I do. I suspect that I am quite a bit older than you and I cannot ever remember there being 120 pence to the pound. So either please provide a citation or confess that you are mistaken/talking bollocks. :-)

But the main thrust of your post was correct with regards to dividing sums of money easily. Or at least it was until the education system decided that mathematics and mental arithmetic were not the most important subjects in life. I'm not sure how some of today's young people could cope with such problems.

Re:Metric time? (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418161)

We used to have 120 pence to the pound in the UK. Much simpler when divvying up the bill at restaurants. Try dividing 100 by three people, four people, six people. Now try it with 120 or multiples thereof. But what about five and ten? Yeah - much harder with 120 (sarcasm).
Quite, just the other day I had to divide 100 by 4 and had to have a lie down after that major feat of applied brain power (sarcasm).

Of course the original British system was much simpler than the decimalized one with two farthings = one ha'penny, to ha'penny = one penny, three pennies = a trupenny bit, two thrupence = a sixpence, two sixpence = one shilling (aka a bob), two bob = a florin, one florin and a sixpence = half a crown, four half crowns = ten bob notes, two ten bob notes = one pounds (also two hundred and fourty pennies) and one pound and a shilling = one guinea.
No wonder they can't divide 100 by 4 anymore.

(apologies to Pratchett and Gaiman)

Re:Metric time? (0, Redundant)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418175)

We used to have 120 pence to the pound in the UK. Much simpler when divvying up the bill at restaurants.

No you didn't. And that you can't remember the correct number shows that it wasn't as simple as you fondly believe.

Re:Metric time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417643)

I think the problem with this is that the distance between the sun and the earth is not constant. That's why we use a property of Caesium (Cs) to determine time instead.

From Wikipedia:

Caesium [wikipedia.org] is also notably used in atomic clocks, which are accurate to seconds in many thousands of years. Since 1967, the International System of Measurements bases its unit of time, the second, on the properties of caesium. SI defines the second as 9,192,631,770 cycles of the radiation which corresponds to the transition between two hyperfine energy levels of the ground state of the 133Cs atom.

Yup. (2, Informative)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417717)

I think the problem with this is that the distance between the sun and the earth is not constant.

But that's just the start:

  • The time it takes for the Earth to complete one cycle of rotation (i.e., an Earth day) is not constant.
  • The time it takes for the Earth to complete one cycle of translation (i.e., an Earth year) is not constant.

How do we know they're not constant? Because we can measure the variation using atomic clocks, of course.

Re:Yup. (5, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417775)

It gets worse than that, even.

What is a year?

Is it the time from perihelion to the next perihelion?
Is it the time from zenith on the shortest day to zenith on the shortest day next year?
Is it the time for when a star within our galaxy is in the same position again?
Is it the time for when a star outside our galaxy is in the same position again?

The earth's orbit rotates, and the solar system rotates, in a galaxy that rotates. And speculation is that the universe rotates too.

Re:Yup. (5, Funny)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417833)

Oblig. Python quote:

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go 'round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.

Re:Metric time? (2, Funny)

CalicoDreams (1159251) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417651)

Why use metric time when you can use Imperial time!!!

Re:Metric time? (1)

H0D_G (894033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417675)

the imperials use metric anyway, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_measurement_units [wikia.com]

Re:Metric time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417739)

I believe he was referring to the original galactic empire. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Metric time? (5, Funny)

Slashidiot (1179447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417915)

Yay, imperial time!

The smallest unit is the "Moment", and then the "While" (or, less used, the "Whilst"). A while is about 14.4 moments. Then you have the "long while", which is 13.8 whiles, then the "time", and "long time"...

For example, it took me a while and three moments to write this comment. I'm not a quick typer...

Re:Metric time? (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418045)

I concur. You crazy Americans should not be measuring your electricity in volts or amperes, since these are strictly metric units. You can start measuring electrical potential in Daniells and current in HP/Dan or BTU/Dan-sec (we'll let you keep seconds). You shouldn't be measuring your chemicals in moles, either: Avogadro's Number for Americans is now 1.7072e+25, the number of atoms in 12 ounces of C-12.

Re:Metric time? (1, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418083)

Volts and amps were perfectly good measurements, before they were STOLEN by the ITU and labeled "metric". Likewise the second, which existed long long before the French got a hard-on for all things base 10.

Hey, wait - seconds are base 60? What kind of bizarrity is this? I demand the ITU create a new, proper measurement of time, with proper decimalization! 24 hours in a day? Good Lord man, you must be joking. And a calendar system so broken that it has leap years EVERY FOUR YEARS? Sounds like the ITU took the coward's way out, and simply adopted an old imperial system, gave it a coat of paint, and called it "metric". A system that uses base 60, base 24, base 7, and can't even decide between base 30 and 31, not to mention the "month" is based on something so profoundly un-metric as the PHASE OF THE MOON?

Re:Metric time? (5, Funny)

Amiralul (1164423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417689)

Or better, wake up at 256, eat lunch at 512 andd GOTO sleep at 1024.

Bam (3, Funny)

multiferroic (798634) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418071)

Buffer overflow [R]estart [R]eboot [R]einstall

Been done... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417841)

in the 1980s [optusnet.com.au] . Nice glasses. I used to have a set just like them...

Re:Metric time? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418117)

I really liked the Swatch "Internet Time", but I had doubts about its mathmatical soundness... however, wakingup at 250, having lunch at 500 and going to sleep at 750 would be nice :)

But for most of the earth, which are nowhere near an arbitrary "center" (Greenwich, Geneva, Beijing, wherever), you'd wake up at 850, lunch at 100, sleep at 520.

year 2612 bug anyone? (3, Insightful)

r00t (33219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417621)

We call this "putting off the problem".

We can ignore the problem then too. Eventually, morning and evening will be on different days. We might just gain or lose a whole day. Heck, we can ignore the problem forever. We'll be off by a year, then a decade...

Re:year 2612 bug anyone? (2, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417647)

We call this "putting off the problem".

We can ignore the problem then too. Eventually, morning and evening will be on different days. We might just gain or lose a whole day. Heck, we can ignore the problem forever. We'll be off by a year, then a decade...

 
Ok guys. We're in California, it's midday 26th June while I have snow falling on my face and I can't see shit because it's new moon.

How many seconds was it already?

Re:year 2612 bug anyone? (5, Funny)

aevan (903814) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417663)

In other news, people in 2612 voted to put off the issue of 'leap hours' until 16412, where they propose to add a 'leap day', ostensibly in February.

Re:year 2612 bug anyone? (1)

chawly (750383) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417777)

"to add a 'leap day', ostensibly in February."
Your information is incomplete ! Please specify if the leap day would be at the beginning, the middle, or the end of February. And would it be every year, every two years, every three years or - and this would be my preference - every 4 years ?

Re:year 2612 bug anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417677)

>Heck, we can ignore the problem forever. We'll be off by a year, then a decade...
and when the seasons go mad, blame some green house environmental effect

Re:year 2612 bug anyone? (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417691)

I often experience that too but the solution to the problem is and will always be.. buy new batteries...

Re:year 2612 bug anyone? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418127)

Yep, or we could simply redefine the length of a second.

Hmm... Why don't we just do that? If we have to adjust things for the definition making things be slightly off on an astronomical scale all the time.

am i the only one (1)

nude-fox (981081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417633)

who thought that utc was some derivative of unreal tournament?

Chrono-noobs! (5, Funny)

hedgemage (934558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417649)

I've been keeping time with my sundial and temple-top observatory the way Ra intended! Damn you kids and your new-fangled timekeeping.

Re:Chrono-noobs! (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417745)

A leap-day every 640 years ought to be enough for anybody.

Re:Chrono-noobs! (1)

SpinningCycle (1191577) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417883)

So do our clocks leap forward or fall back during a leap second? What if it happens in the spring? I can't keep any of this straight. Let's get rid of daylight savings while we are at it.

Re:Chrono-noobs! (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418171)

So do our clocks leap forward or fall back during a leap second? What if it happens in the spring?
Nothing happens to the spring, you just have to keep it wound.
Don't you know *anything* about clocks ?

Why not just make each second a little longer? (5, Interesting)

drgroove (631550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417655)

I thought of this issue years ago, and had actually sat down and done the math at one point... basically, to solve the time discrepancy, just slightly lengthen the second. Everything lines up. Of course, every book, piece of software, scientific instrument, medical equipment, ... well, basically everything in human civilization ... would need to be re-build, re-calibrated, re-programmed, re-manufactured, etc. If nothing else, we'd stimulate the living hell out of the world's economy.

Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417671)

Isn't the point of leap seconds that the Earth doesn't rotate at a constant speed, and doesn't this refute the claim that everything would "line up" under your proposal?

Re:Why not just make each second a little longer? (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417781)

Of course, the real problem is that the rotation of the Earth is not constant (the leap seconds are mostly driven by fluid motions in the core).

Originally, back in the 1960's, instead of the leap seconds, they (the BIH at the time) adjusted the rate of the UTC seconds with respect to TAI. This was widely viewed as not a good thing once it was tried and was dropped, IIRC in 1972.

Re:Why not just make each second a little longer? (2, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417845)

The first AC reply to your idea is correct but I have a feeling you still might not understand his point. The "leap seconds" which we are talking about are not, like the extra days in leap years, always added to the length of the day. Sometimes they are subtracted.

I am not an expert, but the "exact second" calculation you want to make, averaged over a long enough period of time, seems to me to depend on the motions of every sizeable object in the Solar System and probably also (or maybe even more strongly) on fluid dynamics within the Earth's core. Both of these systems are almost certainly chaotic ones, and therefore probably not amenable to the solution you suggest (pre-calculation).

Don't have to. (1, Insightful)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417925)

Yay, nothing like reliving the thrill of Y2K. Except that we don't have to.

One second in 600 years is about 1/18921600000 or roughly 0.000000005%. In a day, the difference between the two ways will produce an offset of 1/220000th of a second, or about 5 nanoseconds. With the possible exception of atomic clocks, no analog or digital device is this precise.

Since any "precise" timekeeping requires periodical synchronization with the world's atomic clocks and astronomical observatories, we'd only need to change them, and the rest will just pick up the new info. Any "standalone" device that does not rely on the above synchronization has a much bigger margin of error than this change would introduce, so they will not be affected.

Yes, you can argue that in 60 years a machine not running the updated time would be 1/10th of a second behind a machine that does and in a deeply hypothetical scenario it could possibly cause some problems, but if the machine is not synchronizing to begin with, its own imperfections will result in a much larger discrepancy than 1/10th of a second in 60 years caused by the time change.

Re:Don't have to. (4, Informative)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418189)

You're off by a factor of 3600. It's "leap hours" that are being proposed; We already have leap seconds. Of course, I'm not sure the math from TFA makes too much sense anyway, as I don't recall having an average of 3 or 6 leap seconds every year.

Re:Why not just make each second a little longer? (2, Informative)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418047)

we'd stimulate the living hell out of the world's economy.

But that wouldn't stimulate it at all. The opportunity costs would be massive. See the "broken window" fallacy.

Re:Why not just make each second a little longer? (1)

Chrisje (471362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418211)

Everything? How many devices/things/tools are there *really* that give a rat's ass about time? I really don't see how this would impact the functionality of my Optical Mouse, Kitchen knives, comfy chair and book respectively CD collection. The way I see it it could be done with an extensive set of firmware upgrades and the replacement of things through attrition/wear&tear. No consumer is going to care if their watch will be off one second every year. So "everything in human civilization" is a ludicrous claim because it could be argued that:

1) Humans never had any
2) More to the point, many things would not be affected by this

Hell, even those devices that have built in clocks are seldom actually correct about the time. My laptop, watch, phone, car and kitchen clock all think we're on slightly different times and all are still running perfectly fine. So is my toaster.

Cut a long story short: this is a can-do proposal from a technical perspective.

Other way (5, Interesting)

professorfalcon (713985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417659)

How about going the other way... leap microseconds. Many times during the day. Then nobody will hardly notice.

What would be wrong with (5, Interesting)

maroberts (15852) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417665)

A leap minute every 10 years (or so)?

One event every 10 years does not cause lots of disruption, and being a minute out of sync with solar time is not large enough to be a problem. You'd notice an hour's difference if you're in a northerly latitude and have Daylight Saving Time...

Re:What would be wrong with (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417807)

One event every 10 years does not cause lots of disruption, and being a minute out of sync with solar time is not large enough to be a problem.

Except for all the millions of cron jobs that run at a minute granularity.
If the same minute occurs twice, should the job run twice? If a minute is skipped, should the job not run at all, or run a minute early, or a minute late?

This is the same problem as the witching hour every year when switching to and from daylight savings time. The remedy for that is to ensure you don't schedule jobs for those hours, or get vendor assurance of what, exactly, will happen for jobs scheduled at the start, middle or end of the witching hours.

Since cron jobs are not scheduled at the granularity of seconds, it's generally safe to have leap seconds, as long as they are set before or after the minute tick. So, please, let's keep it that way!

Regards,
--
*Art

Re:What would be wrong with (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417847)

A leap minute every 10 years (or so)?

Some safety critical real time systems such as radar trackers need an accurate time reference to be able to work at all. They don't care about the time of day but do care a lot about each hour, minute and second being exactly the same length.

I think we need two references. One time reference which never, ever changes, and another which tracks the diurnal cycle. For the latter, leap minutes would be fine.

Re:What would be wrong with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418089)

UNIX Time [wikipedia.org]
"number of seconds elapsed since midnight UTC of January 1, 1970,"

Re:What would be wrong with (1)

evilbessie (873633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417909)

It would actually be about every 50ish years as you get a leap second about once a year (there have been relatively few recently from what I remember, and they can only occur at 2 points in the year (June and December)) but what's wrong with trying to keep time in line with what we see, at 12 (or 1 during DST/BST) the sun should be at the highest point, ok not if your not exactly on a longitudinal line divisible by pi/12, but close enough, and anyway hasn't a lot of money gone into sorting programs to deal with leap seconds...

Re:What would be wrong with (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418031)

Sorry, no, 12:00 hours at zenith won't work even at the exact middle of each time zone, among other things because the earth doesn't move around the sun in a perfect circle, but has an elliptical orbit, and also because the earth's tilt varies (we wobble).

Re:What would be wrong with (1)

evilbessie (873633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418077)

It wouldn't have been at the middle of the time zones (which are odd shapes anyway, due to countries being odd shapes, it should have been at the 0 degrees longitude and every 15 degrees after that). But the rest of your points I can't fault, but then living in London I don't think anything should change the time as it's all related to GMT...

South. (1)

rew (6140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417667)

I live at 5 degrees east. Thus, I know that because I'm at GMT+1, the sun will be exactly in the south at 12:40 PM. If we change to the "leap hour" strategy, I'll have to remember what the offset is now, and that offset will change all the time...

Re:South. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418141)

Yes, and tomorrow when the sun is exactly in the south at 12:40:00.0164 PM you will be completely disoriented, because when you use that sun to navigate the 10 km between your home and work you will end up at 0.0164 meters from your intended location.

This is why... (5, Funny)

MegaMahr (788652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417673)

This is why I refuse to set the time on my VCR...

A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (5, Insightful)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417685)

Yeah, because the best way to to deal with a small problem is to put it off until it becomes a really big problem.

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (0, Offtopic)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417761)

Yeah, because the best way to to deal with a small problem is to put it off until it becomes a really big problem.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: [...]Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

So, basically, you just committed heresy. Happy now?

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (1)

damaki (997243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417789)

Seems like it's humanity way of things. Floods? Overpopulation? Pollution? Climate changes? Let's wait eons and solve this later.
We never learn.

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417805)

That's a poor comparison because that's not why some want to "hold it off" though.

We already solve this soon today, so we aren't being stupid like that.

See also the article for this reason to this proposal. ;-)

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (1)

damaki (997243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417945)

I read the article and I am still not convinced. And my comparison holds more than you can imagine...
In the past, we kept marshes mostly untouched because it gave nice buffer zones for floods and provided all kinds of plants and animals. Well, let's destroy this stuff and set all over, it's easier to cross and we'll have fertile lands.
In the past, corn fields and such were separated by hedges, thus absorbing excesses of water when rivers went over. Let's get rid of this 'cause it's easier for machines.
In the past, we used to respect somehow the earth we lived on and the water because our food grows on it and we drink the water. Let's dirty the water and create big dumps, we'll clean up when we can.
We have new machines that rejects gases that darken our cities and sting our lungs, but these are really nice. Oh, we'll solve the issues later.

Do you see what I mean? Each time we have a solution to a problem, we postpone the problem and forget the original solution because it's easier.

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (1)

damaki (997243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417971)

Oops. About the hedges, these do not really absorb much excesses. They fix the land and prevent landslides, keep the water in place until it dries. I knew it was flood related but I've just remembered this.

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417837)

Yeah, because the best way to to deal with a small problem is to put it off until it becomes a really big problem.

Hey, it worked for the environment. It's only a problem for those of us still alive in 600 years.

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417877)

I see it more of a problem with US legislators trying to govern what's outside human control.
Congress passing a law that a year is a constant length doesn't make it so.

Next thing, they'll pass laws stating that zenith is always at noon, or that there will be a full moon every 29 days.

Regards,
--
*Art

Re:A 'leap-hour' in about 600 years (2, Funny)

jmv (93421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418041)

Who wants to bet that in 600 years, they'll decide to scrap the leap-hour and instead have a leap-day in 13800 years?

They have to add a leap something, sometime (1, Redundant)

revengebomber (1080189) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417705)

I propose that we add another year every 5 million years. Or better yet, another decade every 50 million years.

Or, why don't we just redefine the second to deal with all of this in the first place?

Re:They have to add a leap something, sometime (1)

ceroklis (1083863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417799)

Or, why don't we just redefine the second to deal with all of this in the first place?


Because the duration of the mean solar day / 86400 is not a constant. That was the whole point of the definition of the SI second.

Re:They have to add a leap something, sometime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417809)

The one thing we don't want, it to define the second according to earth rotation. As a mean to measure time, our atomic clocks are much more accurate than earth. Our planet rotation is quite irregular and slowing.

Re:They have to add a leap something, sometime (5, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417855)

Leap years are to deal with correcting the length of the year, which isn't an integral number of days. Leap seconds [wikipedia.org] are to deal with the fact that the length of a day changes slowly and at a variable rate. It's not the same problem at all.

Re:They have to add a leap something, sometime (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417875)

Or, why don't we just redefine the second to deal with all of this in the first place?

because a non-constant second would make most of physics a serious pain. Basing such a fundamental unit the ever changing motion of a ball or rock in space seems rather silly too.

The underlying cause isn't that we end up with a fraction of a second left over due to the Earth's rotation time not being an integer multiple of a second, but because the Earth's rotation is slowing down.

A second was defined as 1/86400 of the time of the Earth's rotation in 1/1/1901 (the date was added when the bright sparks noticed the earth's rotation wasn't constant), but the uselessness of that definition became apparent rather quickly so now it's the defined in terms of cesium-133 radiation. But it doesn't matter what you define it as, it there are exactly 86400 seconds in todays day, then there won't be in next years one since the Earth will have slowed some more.

Re:They have to add a leap something, sometime (1)

overkill1024 (1016283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418063)

If we redefine the second by such a margin I'll have to recalibrate the nuclear clock in my basement. A much simpler solution would be to require cars near the equator to vent their exhaust upward durring the day, slightly increasing Earth's orbit, counteracting global warming and eliminating the need to adjust our clocks to compensate for the Eearth's error. Of course, we'll all be dead by 1012 so it won't make much of a difference either way.

Please take some care with editing... (5, Insightful)

Mantle (104724) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417707)

... which nobody seems to believe is a good idea.



Um... isn't the whole point of this article that some people think it's a good idea? TFS even says there is debate over whether it is a good or bad idea!

Re:Please take some care with editing... (3, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418027)

Maybe he's talking about Mr Nobody.

leap minute (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417709)

Actually, the leap second makes the most sense to me. But a leap hour in 600 years, when we do an entire day about every four years is absurd. If we had to abandon the leap second, it should only be replaced by the leap minute,. Likely few people would notice the time being off by as much as a minute (just don't use that sextant any more, or if you do wear two watches or set your to heavenly time). But time being off as much as an hour would pretty much muck things up (think of the effect of daylight savings time and double it).

sounds like trying to legislate Pi (1)

rta (559125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417721)

I don't have anything substantial to say, but to me it sounds somewhat like trying to legislate the value of pi. Not exactly the same thing as definition of a time coordinate system is ultimately arbitrary, but it's in the same vein.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Pi_Bill [wikipedia.org]

600 years? Who will remember? (4, Funny)

damaki (997243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417731)

Yeah, this 600 years stuff is nice but who will remember to adjust clocks in 600 years? It's far better to have an instantaneous solution to the problem than a remote one.

What a number of people don't realize... (5, Interesting)

swamp_ig (466489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417783)

The leap second is required because the earth's spin is slowing down in a complex, non-linear way.

Changing the length of the second simply won't work, in a couple of hundred years we'll be right back to where we started again. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_second [wikipedia.org] for details.

The leap hour is a daft idea, why change something that isn't broken, if a tad inconvenient.

Simple Solution (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417797)

Just use Newtonian physics to calculate the different lenghts of years and days in advance, and adjust accordingly, you could do stretches of a millennium at once. We know how long a year is now, and we can calculate how long a year will be 1 million years from now. So each year or every few years a new set of "yearly calenders" time scales could easily be released. As for software issues with time, software can use a different standard time measurement system, which can manualy be computed into the official "Newtonian corrected time standard system". This way time is always in sync with the solar and galactic cycles and everyone is happy.

Alternatively can't some way be made to extend the very accurate Mayan calender beyond 2012? or Re-use it such as we have this BC AD stuff with the western time thing.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

swamp_ig (466489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417871)

It won't work. The need for leap seconds is non-deterministic and non-linear.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417919)

It won't work. The need for leap seconds is non-deterministic and non-linear.

Yeah, but good luck in getting the typical congressman to understand what non-deterministic or non-linear means, or even admit that they don't know it.

If it ain't broke... (2, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417811)

... don't fix it.

This is a bad idea, and my understanding is that it has not much chance of being adopted.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418037)

It is broken.

Leap seconds are lost moments in time depending on the time system you use. Linux time [wikipedia.org] is a good example. Every time there is a leap second Linux time deviates further from UTC.

In this day and age, do we really have to keep lining up our time system to astronomy events, rather than realizing that time is actually linear, and so should our time system be? Over time our time system will not be perfectly synchronized to every event that happens to occur in the universe, nor should we try to force it to be.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1, Funny)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418217)

In this day and age, do we really have to keep lining up our time system to astronomy events, rather than realizing that time is actually linear


time clod insensitive, live some of in nonlinear us you!

how many self serving philistines does it take... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417815)

to wreck yOUR home/planet?

no coincidence, around the same 10% that control the money tables, also do around 90% of the (soon to be irreparable) damage. what a surprise? the tables are turning (over) now, as the lights are coming up all over. see you there/threadbare?

heh (1)

so many toms (me too (1115419) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417853)

Yeh, sounds good... I think we should vote to eliminate summer as well... (never liked that season)

This is good (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417857)

'cos I was just getting to the limit of my patience with changing my watch all the time.

Leap hour ... WHY? (2, Interesting)

Karellen (104380) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417903)

Why have a leap hour in 600 years time? Surely it would be easier for all countries to just change their local time offset to UTC by 1 hour. So, for example, instead of Pacific time being UTC-0800/UTC-0700, it would become UTC-0700/UTC-0600. (Or maybe 0900/0800)

How about DST (4, Insightful)

Trogre (513942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417953)

I don't really care what they do with leap seconds, but IMO their time would be better spent abolishing that routine-breaking, parent-killing, accident-causing abomination which is Daylight Savings Time.

The only benefits I can see is slightly later barbecues in summer and a six-monthly reminder to check smoke detector batteries about the house.

Re:How about DST (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418051)

+1 to that

Re:How about DST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418081)

Hear, hear! It is silly to fiddle with seconds that occur every few years, when there is a discrepancy of an entire hour disturbing all schedules twice a year. At least the leap second has a technical justification.

Is this about sunlight?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21417983)

This whole time changing business, this is about keeping people awake during the hours that sun is shining, and is not in fact about time.

I guess it's a philosophical argument about whether you want to live and work while it is dark outside hahah. :)

2013? (1)

Schemat1c (464768) | more than 6 years ago | (#21417989)

Don't worry, time will lose all meaning by then anyway.

This is a modern problem (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418003)

Before trains, nobody cared. Very few people care now.
 

Steer the Earth (4, Funny)

SirStiff (911718) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418009)

We could just fire off some nukes every six months or year to control the orbital speed of the earth around the sun. Just keep tuning the orbit to our atomic clocks instead of vice-versa.

Simple and accurate solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418021)

Run computers on TAI (International Atomic Time). Keep it constantly flowing, and never add or remove seconds, as per the definition. Then simply calculate UTC in software from a published leap offset between the two, which compensates for the leap seconds:

UTC = TAI - leapseconds

Then define all the timezones off of UTC as normal. All this basically does, is make the calculations for the timezones into a few hours plus or minus a few seconds. This makes a lot more sense, because then you actually have a fundamental time (TAI) which doesn't have discontinuities, but if you want to consider your astronomical orientation, you look at UTC or your local time. We don't need to redefine these types of time, because these already exist. We just need to use them more intelligently.

Unix epoch and leap seconds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418139)

All unix and linux systems encode their times as offsets from 1970-01-01 UTC ignoring leap seconds. That results in times that have no available time encoding. It was probably wise (or necessary) to define it that way because the leap seconds cannot be determined algorithmically.

Most applications would probably have no problem interpreting leap seconds as NTP time adjustments. However, I suspect it might already give trouble to many kinds of precision devices and possibly increasingly so in the future, when realtime controls of all kinds of machinery are tied to the steady flow of time. Critical bugs practically write themselves when some components meticulously take the leap second into account while others ignore it.

I do think it would be better to replace leap seconds with a leap hour. It can be handled painlessly returning from daylight saving time, and programmers can be given ample warning (say, a century).

So we need leap seconds. So f*cking what? (1, Interesting)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418039)

Honestly, this is ridiculous. First of all, if you time allways is shorter and we're constantly adding seconds, why not introduce a new measurement of time entirely and use that for precision needs while we're at it? Something like 'beats' comes to mind, or a centi-minute linked to max. sun height, which would give a more granular measurement of time at the same time. Take that new technical measurement and sync that to whatever you want.

As far as I understand, nature is so "irregular" that the need for leap-seconds can't really be predicted that precisely. What we need then is some signal to announce leap seconds that is stored in every TAI linked clock. That way we can system-internally look up if some timing problem occurs what may have caused it. On second though, everybody can just have his system do some double checks whenever his clock jumps from 24:00 to 00:00 (that's the way leap seconds are allways filled in).

And coming to think of it, given that PCs to date have timing systems that aren't worth squat I think this really isn't that much of an issue for most admins. Hail to Apple for integrating a quartz clock into their systems - others appear to dumb to do that. Finally I can read the time on my Computer and trust it too.

Bottom line:
The Sun will allways be "out of sync" with whatever measurements of time we come up with. Honestly folks, she really doesn't give a f*ck. If you need precise timing, pick one. Unix Era, UTC, TAI, ... it isn't that there aren't enough. Otherwise get over the fact that nature isn't a model, it's reality. And your clocks should represent thatas closely as possible. My 2 cents.

Change time (3, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418055)

I think it would be soo much easier to throw away our clocks & base everything on the number of seconds since 00:00:00 January 1st 1979 from now on.

Come on it's been nearly 2008 years since we had BC, it's time for a change !

While you are at it: "Down with DST!" (2, Insightful)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418105)

If one little (leap) second is worth all the fuss, where's the uproar to finally rid us of the dangerous practice of needlessly, senselessly changing almost all clocks in existence (in an age where every other gadget has one) twice a year by one whole whopping hour [wikipedia.org] , with all the trouble that entails?

70% vote in favour is good enough? (1)

daveewart (66895) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418157)

It will be put to a vote to ITU member states during 2008, and if 70% agree, the leap second will be eliminated by 2013

Given that the representatives of each member state are presumably experts on chronological matters, this seems like an insane idea: making a change when 30% of experts think it's a bad idea doesn't make sense.

not quite oblig. Simpsons quote (2, Funny)

weighn (578357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418159)

sure, [eliminating leap seconds] may save a few lives... but thousands will be late

Synchronize your watches? (4, Insightful)

Televiper2000 (1145415) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418165)

I bet it would be a considerable challenge to find 12 watches synchronized within 30 seconds of each other. So we're worried about seconds of mismatch between sundials and the only computer on earth that isn't connected to the internet? I agree with the article. Leave UTC time alone and synchronize to GPS time instead. The rest of the world will go on being happy having their watch within a couple minutes of the "official time."

Never mind seconds... (1)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418203)

When's the vote to eliminate Monday to Friday?

Very bad idea. (0, Redundant)

Spc01 (1188301) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418219)

I think this is very bad idea since all the clocks will be inaccuare within 1 hour in next 600 years.. Inaccuracy will rise and rise..
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