Leap second to be added

Jun 29, 2012
Credit: iStockphoto

A leap second will be introduced on 30 June 2012 following a decision made by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) earlier this year. This could potentially be one of the last ever leap seconds added, as a decision may be made in the next few years to abolish the practice.

Leap seconds are added to Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC) to keep the time scale from within one second of that determined by the rotation of the Earth. The time scale produced by atomic clocks is much more stable and reliable than that based on the Earth's rotation, and without adjustments the two would diverge by ever increasing amounts.

There is ongoing debate over whether or not to abolish leap seconds and allow atomic time to gradually drift away from . For now, a decision has been deferred until 2015, but if agreement is reached then to abolish the leap second, the second added on 30 June 2012 could be one of the last.

Some countries have proposed that leap seconds should be abolished because of the difficulties they cause for systems reliant on precise timing, and the time and effort needed to programme them manually into equipment, with the resulting risk of human error. They also argue that the need for predictable timekeeping outweighs that for a link between civil timekeeping and the Earth's rotation.

However, other countries argue that the current leap second system works adequately for the majority of users and the international community needs to be absolutely sure about the long term consequences before making any potentially irreversible changes to it.

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User comments : 7

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hyongx
2 / 5 (4) Jun 29, 2012
the decision should be simple.
What is the economic cost of having a leap second? I.e., how much work, man-hours, and monetary cost is associated with requiring the world's countries to recalibrate their clocks by one second?

What is the economic benefit? I'm not sure how an arbitrary shift of time by a second would have an economic benefit anytime in the next 100 years. Maybe we should wait 100 years and then have a leap minute.
chardo137
3 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2012
The people who don't want leap seconds do not understand why we have them. It couldn't possibly cost that much to have computer programmers do the job that they were hired for.
Q: How many computer programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: It can't be done, it's a hardware problem.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Jun 29, 2012
It couldn't possibly cost that much to have computer programmers do the job that they were hired for.

You'd be surprised.

There are programs running on machines written in dead languages by programmers who themselves are already dead.
There are programs running in companies for which the source code has been lost (and the third party companies that programmed this stuff out of business for a long time)...

There's stuff running on machines that are so old that you can't even identify what company manufactured them (I've seen this myself. If that machine ever dies an entire company with around 100 employees will go bust, because until they replace the functionality of that thing months (without revenue) will have passed)
SatanLover
5 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2012
time is hardly an issue on hardware, this is so exaggerated.
it is just a matter of software converting the ticks into correct date and time format which can easily be fixed even on outdated software without modifying any code.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 29, 2012
How many billion dollars would it be worth if one computer on the stock exchange were not reset at the right time? If you really wanted you could kill the world economy with such information.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2012
time is hardly an issue on hardware, this is so exaggerated.
You obviously haven't worked with dates. Even calendars aren't standardized. In perl language this work continues after fifteen years with no end in sight.

For example, how many minutes are in a month?
SatanLover
not rated yet Jun 30, 2012
time is hardly an issue on hardware, this is so exaggerated.
You obviously haven't worked with dates. Even calendars aren't standardized. In perl language this work continues after fifteen years with no end in sight.

For example, how many minutes are in a month?

First of all perl has ZERO to do with hardware. Its a piece of software.

second of all dates and time are a representation of ticks, nothing more nothing less. When you do calculations with time you do it in ticks not date and time.