The PJ Tatler

Make Sure to Add One Second to your Atomic Clocks Tonight

After all, you wouldn’t want to oversleep or anything, right?

LA Times:

The planet’s timekeepers are adding an extra second to the clock at midnight universal time Saturday night. And if you blink, you just might miss it.

The so-called leap second is needed to synchronize the world’s official atomic clocks, said John Lowe, who heads the time and frequency services group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The reason? Earth is spinning just a bit slowly. The time it takes Earth to rotate on its axis — which is the definition of a day — is now about two milliseconds longer than it was 100 years ago, said Geoff Chester, spokesman at the U.S. Naval Observatory, in an interview with the Associated Press. Over the course of a year, that adds up to nearly three-quarters of a second.

A second might not seem like much, Lowe said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But if you allow that accumulation to go on, it starts to become apparent.” The seconds would stack up and “sunrise” would eventually take place at sunset. And “spring” would arrive in the dead of winter, Lowe said.

“Soon you’d have an obvious problem,” he said.

Obvious? Perhaps if you had a lifespan of a few thousand years, yes. With 86,400 seconds in a day and a gain of less than a second a year, it would take an awful long time to have “sunrise arrive at sunset.”

No matter. Now if I can just figure out how to reset my atomic clock without blowing up Streator, Illinois…

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