Wednesday, July 01, 2015

got a second

Did you see the news that you (we all did) got an extra second yesterday (June 30). Now that it is over I feel disappointed that I didn’t plan something for that extra second.

Technology has dramatically change the way we use time. This leap second can cause networks, server, and other electronic systems to crash if they are not prepared for it. Back before time was money, people didn’t use seconds. Reading seconds on a sundial just didn’t happen. In the 13th century, scientists started using seconds. Today many electronic devices are specified in nanoseconds. That leap second equaled a billion nanoseconds.

A group called the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service decided we needed to add a second to the time standard UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

Now that group could really mess with the world on April Fool’s Day!

The reason for the leap second (many have been added since 1972) is because Earth's rotation is gradually slowing down a bit. Leap seconds are a way to adjust for the slowing spin. Another way would be just to forget about it. Using our clock system a day should have 86,400 seconds.  Whatever, so we have a few slow days (the slowing is not constant) and after a 100 years noon might be 1 minute off, big deal. (Don’t worry I’m not planning to apply for membership to the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service) An interesting fact filled article about this can found over at NASA's JPL web site.

What can you get done in a second? Say a word or two?

If you are a world class fast talker you can say close to 10 words within a second. Remember that Fedex commercial with the fast talker? He was John Moschitta who set a world record back in the 80’s when he was clocked at 586 words per minute. Myself I’m a very slow talker as I pause a second spent thinking of my next word or phrase. This interview clip of him must have been done in the 80's (back when a day was a few seconds faster).

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