The Times, They Really ARE A-Changin’

December 29, 2008


So, you think 2009 will ring in at 12:59:59? Think again! The world’s time keepers are going to be adding 1 second to December 31st, 2008. This is to continue to remain in sync with the Earth’s rotation, which has been slowing. The previous leap second added to the calendar occured on December 31, 2005. I’ll bet you didn’t even notice, did you? Me, I felt nothing. lol.

Leap seconds are added because atomic clocks– those clocks that rule our lives and IRS deadlines so, so stringently– operate at a slightly different speed than the rotation of the Earth, which historically had been the traditional timekeeper.

WASHINGTON (NNS) — The U.S. Naval Observatory’s Master Clock Facility in Washington will add a “leap second” Dec. 31 in coordination with the world’s atomic clocks at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

This corresponds to 6:59:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, when the extra second will be inserted. This marks the 24th leap second to be added to UTC, a uniform time-scale kept by atomic clocks around the world, since 1972.

Historically, time was based on the mean rotation of Earth relative to celestial bodies, and the second was defined in this reference frame. However, the invention of atomic clocks defined a much more precise “atomic time” scale and a second that is independent of Earth’s rotation.

I found a good video that explains all the gory details, if you want to know. I find the topic fascinating.

A second is such a minscule element in our lives filled with minutes, hours, and years, and it seems insignificant to have to reset our replica watches. But think about this- if these seconds to time were not adjusted, over the centuries, the people in the future will be rising and sleeping to totally different times of day to us!

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