April 16, 2021
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Gearing Up For The Leap Second

Gearing Up For The Leap Second
File - AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Gearing Up For The Leap Second

People across the globe are set to gain a second as time keepers prepare to add an extra second to world clocks. 

Reason behind this generosity is that there's a slight difference between how fast the earth spins and official world time. So this extra second helps bridge the gap.

As the Telegraph puts it:

Immediately before midnight dials will read 11:59:60 as clocks hold their breath for a second to allow the Earth's rotation to catch up with atomic time. 

You might want to ask why bother if it's just a second. Hence, the BBC got in touch with Robert Edwards, head of science at the Royal Observatory Greenwich to explain this baffling practice who said:

You could ignore this over a short timescale.

After a century the time given by our atomic clocks might disagree with the time given by the Sun by about one minute.

After 6,000 years they might disagree by an hour.

After roughly 72,000 years they might disagree by 12 hours and midday according to our atomic clocks would take place at midnight according to the Sun.

Taking a second's leap might sound quite simple, but tinkering with time is never a good idea.

Peter Whibberley, Senior Research Scientist in the Time and Frequency group Britain’s National Physical Laboratory who is better known as the 'Time Lord' said:

There are consequences of tinkering with time. Getting leap seconds wrong can cause loss of synchronisation in communication networks, financial systems and many other applications which rely on precise timing. Whenever a leap second occurs, some computer systems encounter problems due to glitches in the code written to handle them. The consequences are particularly severe in the Asia-Pacific region, where leap seconds occur during normal working hours.

When the last leap second was added in 2012 Mozilla, Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon all reported crashes and there were problems with the Linux operating system and programmes written in Java.

The BBC reports:

The atomic clock expert Professor Judah Levine, from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, warns that "it's a major interruption mostly because there are a lot of systems that aren't prepared to handle the leap second correctly".

Here's hope that all goes well with the leap and the world puts the extra second to good use.

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