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The Leap Second lives on for another three years

Occasionally there is an extra second added to the world’s time to keep atomic clocks in time with the actual rotations of the Earth.

This concept isn’t new, everyone appreciates February 29th when it comes around every four years. On Thursday, representatives to the International Telecommunications Union, part of the United Nations, discussed eliminating the leap second.

There are two camps of thought. The Unitest States delegation says that the leap seconds pose a threat to delicate global computer systems which rely on extremely precise time to coordinate communications, reports the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the British think that removing leap seconds altogether would create worse problems. One of which would be noon gradually moving earlier in the morning. As the Earth’s rotation slows and days get longer, leap seconds allow the human perception of time to stay connected to the motion of the Earth and the Sun.

Without the seconds being added, atomic clocks would be out of sync with the Earth by a minute in a few decades and an hour in 500 years. In a few thousand years, ‘morning’ would show the sun setting, says the BBC.

Due to a lack of consensus, the issue has been put off until the next World Radio Conference in 2015. The issue has been researched and debated for ten years already, waiting another three can’t do much damage.

While the last second was added in 2008 and the next is due to be added at the end of June this year, it’s hard to imagine so many scientists getting heated about one second every five or so years. If adding the seconds became more frequent, that might be a bigger problem. We certainly won’t complain about the days getting longer.

Categories: Environmental