Happy 42nd birthday, Leap Second!




Throwing in the towel?

Must. Know. Meaning.


Head over to leapsecond.com for a thorough investigation of precision time. The proprietor of this website once put a cesium clock in his car and took a vacation on Mt. Rainier, just to see if he could detect the 56 nanoseconds he gained by raising his altitude for a few days.

That’s awesome. But you know what else is awesome? Caption competitions!

I’ll start: “What the hell’s he gonna do with that ATOM!?”

Sorry. I’m not very good at caption competitions. But the look of posed contemplation on the left with the look of god-knows-what on he right is pretty funny. It reminds me of those photographers from small regional papers that insist on making the subjects of the stories pose in stupid ways.

Anyone can tell that clock is hungry, it went back four seconds.

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Thanks for nothing, leap seconds.

While ‘necessary’ to keep TAI coordinated with the sensory experiences of the inhabitants of our geoid, leap seconds have the ignominious distinction of being the only part of timekeeping that is non-deterministic. DST is a pain, leap years are vaguely baroque; but leap seconds? Purely empirical. When team astronomy says that their little glowy lights aren’t lining up with team atomic clock’s buzzy little atoms, leap second.

Needless to say, this is absolute hell for any system trying to keep time with nothing but a good RTC and some tables. It’s the single factor making it impossible, rather than merely subject to inaccuracy. TAI 4 lyfe!

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Please see the first page of Stephenson and Morrison for a better version of the history.

The UK Government is currently carrying out a consultation as to whether we should continue with leap seconds.
More information at: http://leapseconds.co.uk/

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