Wait a sec for leap into 2006
World time keepers stretch minute to 61 seconds
Sunday, December 25, 2005; Posted: 11:27 a.m. EST (16:27 GMT)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Get ready for a minute with 61 seconds. Scientists are delaying the start of 2006 by the first "leap second" in seven years, a timing tweak meant to make up for changes in the Earth's rotation.
The adjustment will be carried out by sticking an extra second into atomic clocks worldwide at the stroke of midnight Coordinated Universal Time, the widely adopted international standard, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology said this week.
"Enjoy New Year's Eve a second longer," the institute said in an explanatory notice. "You can toot your horn an extra second this year."
Coordinated Universal Time coincides with winter time in London. On the U.S. East Coast, the extra second occurs just before 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Atomic clocks at that moment will read 23:59:60 before rolling over to all zeros.
A leap second is added to keep uniform timekeeping within 0.9 second of the Earth's rotational time, which can speed up or slow down because of many factors, including ocean tides. The first leap second was added on June 30, 1972, according to NIST, an arm of the U.S. Commerce Department.
High-speed communications systems among other modern technologies require precise time measurements.
Since 1999 until recently, the two time standards have been in close enough synch to escape any need to add a leap second, NIST said.
Although it is possible to have a negative leap second -- that is, a second deducted from Coordinated Universal Time -- so far all have been add-ons, reflecting the Earth's general slowing trend due to tidal breaking.
Deciding when to introduce a leap second is the responsibility of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, a standards-setting body. Under an international pact, the preference for leap seconds is December 31 or June 30.
Man, you really have to wonder sometimes. Sure they add just a second now but who knows what those bastards will add or subtract next?
Frankly, I'm just amazed that they can tell there's a second differential based on the earth's orbit. You'd think that considering the distances involved, minutes would be completely within the margin of error much less seconds. I mean, think about it. The distance the earth travels within a second is only .00000316% of the distance it travels on one rotation around the sun. How the hell can you measure a difference like that based on astonomical data?
I think it's nice though that they tell you exactly when you gain that extra second in case you want to try to do something special with it. It's like that whole daylight savings time whozit where everyone knows it's scheduled at 2am, just in case there's some critical late night tv scheduling that might be effected. Since it's only a second this time around, I figure you have to be quick to fit in some quality time.
Isn't it also nice to know that there's an international pact detailing when extra seconds can be added? Who were the anal batch of diplomats who debated this agreement? I can just picture a fight breaking out as irate spring-loving seperatists push for March instead and threaten to bring the entire process to a halt if their demands weren't met.