Time is up for the leap second. Final week, a world coalition of scientists and authorities businesses voted to retire the dated timekeeping system, which is able to formally finish in 2035.
The choice was made Nov. 18 throughout a normal convention in France held by the Worldwide Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the group chargeable for international timekeeping.
Much like leap years, leap seconds are a measure of time that get added periodically to clocks to make up for the distinction between astronomical time (Common Time 1, or UT1), often known as the Earth‘s rotation, and Coordinated Common Time (UTC), which is predicated on the atomic clock.
“Because the Earth’s rotation continues to decelerate, it accumulates one minute of delay every century and one hour of delay over 5,000 years,” Patrizia Tavella, director of the BIPM’s time division, advised LiveScience. Thus, the leap second was invented.
First launched in 1972, leap seconds have lengthy been the bane of timekeepers’ existence and have more and more come underneath strain for elimination as extremely used applied sciences reminiscent of satellite navigation, laptop networks, telecommunication and aviation more and more demand excessive accuracy in time preserving.
At its inception 50 years in the past, 10 leap seconds have been added to the atomic time scale; within the years since, 27 extra additions have been made every time the 2 time methods drifted aside by greater than 0.9 seconds, in accordance with The New York Times (opens in new tab).
The addition of leap seconds has created its personal host of points and can lead to technical difficulties that may have an effect on all the things from monetary transactions to vitality transmission — even how astronomers align their telescopes (opens in new tab).
“Leap seconds could be a supply of failure and anomalies in laptop methods,” Tavella mentioned. For example, Tavella pointed to the aviation trade, which depends closely on correct timekeeping to schedule flight routes across the globe.
“Due to the leap second, airways have had points with scheduling flights because of a distinction in time,” Tavella mentioned, since totally different computing networks have developed their very own strategies so as to add in further leap seconds. “You may expertise errors if there is not worldwide synchronization when making use of the leap second.”
Tavella was fast to notice that the typical individual probably “will not discover the change,” and that as an alternative of including in seconds on an annual foundation, the brand new methodology will contain compounding seconds over the course of a century or extra.
“At any time there is a one-second offset, we will let it go till it compounds to a minute or extra after which make the time change each century or extra,” Tavella mentioned.
The US was among the many international locations who voted sure for the decision’s passage.
Initially printed on LiveScience.