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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What Will You Do With Your Leap Second?

We'll gain an extra second this December 31, courtesy of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERRSS), who looks out for these things for us. The "leap second" -- the first in seven years -- accounts for the variability of the earth's rotation. So as you're counting down to the new year this Saturday night, precision timepieces such as atomic clocks will read 23:59:59, 23:59:60, 00:00:00. You'll just have to wait an extra second before breaking out the champagne...

UPDATE: A post in Pajamas Media (which cites this post) notes the very real work and disruption involved in adjusting for the leap second. The post quotes an article from Sci-Tech Today that summarizes the controversy: "Some experts think the leap second should be abolished because the periodic adjustment of time imposes unreasonable and perhaps dangerous disruptions on precision software. Others, however, argue that it would be expensive to adjust satellites, telescopes and other astronomical systems that are hard-wired for the leap second. Researchers hope to find out soon whether the leap second really is disruptive."

Source: ITrain.org