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Blame it on the Butterfly: Leap Seconds Might Leap Away

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I think there oughta be a law. If not a law then a definite hue and cry over the fact that we as humans have had to wait for like six years for any flippin’ leap seconds to be added to our lives. And – this next part will surely set tongues a-wagging – the Powers-That-Be might just up and stop handing out the leap seconds for good! Please, begging you here though, don’t start blaming ‘W’, or Blair, or even Madonna for this. I’m sure there is a culprit, and personally, I’m leaning towards that smart-ass butterfly that causes such havoc by fluttering it’s “look at me, I’m a flippin’ butterfly” wings. But onward.

Leap seconds, though they sound like a result of too much caffeine, are actual seconds, as in time, that are added every year end to make up for a freaky discrepancy in the way time is observed.

It goes like this: After all the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Huguenots, and other bands of smarty-pants invented time based on the rotation of the earth and astronomical observations – solar time; some other folks in the know decided to start a new fresh way to tell time; International Atomic Time. No one really knows why. After reading deep into the transcripts of the 10th through 13th General Conferences of Weights and Measures, I can tell you this: It’s very boring stuff. At some point people realized that the earth had slowed down. (Some theorize it’s because it [the Earth] fell asleep during the 10th through 13th General Conferences of Weights and Measures)

I have to stop and interject here, only two ways to keep time? They are scientists, but I beg to differ. There are lots. Ask a friend, ask a stranger, look at the microwave, look at the sun, check on the TV, check your mobile, call someone who cares, or at the least, scratch your butt and hazard a guess. The answer is usually the same, “Five minutes after the last time you asked me, you dolt!”

Anyway, back to the scientists and such. With this apparent deceleration of the earth’s rotation, while time marched on, the earth – did not. The traditional definition of a second being 1/864000 of a mean solar day was losing its oomph. For quite a few years previous, the International Atomic Time (TAI) synched up nicely with the solar time method. Then, when the whole discrepancy with one time keeping method not matching the other method — the TAI was just slowed down to match the solar time.

Nowadays we have the UTC, which is Coordinated Universal Time. This is a compromise, or hybrid of both methods, and we’ve been getting these neato leap seconds for the last 20 plus years. The calculations show that the difference between solar and atomic times is just a piddlin’ 0.9 seconds. Or something like that.

Soon though, they might abolish the leap second give-away altogether. There’s to be a meeting in Geneva of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) this November, and the subject will be up for debate. One can’t help but wonder if it will sound anything like the opening 55 seconds of “Time” on Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

So, I’m imploring, don’t do away with our leap seconds, matter of fact I personally could use more; seconds, hours, whatever can be spared. I’d love some more time for pursuits such as working at soup kitchens, or at the very least, watching Kill Bill volumes 1 & 2 in one sitting. Maybe I’d even get out doors and chase some butterflies.

Leap Second in UTC

Leap Seconds

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About MaryKay

  • hey,does this have anything to do with the metric system?


  • Mark – could be. *sigh* Isn’t it all a big plot. Like a huge, dare I say, mondo plot?

    It makes me weary.
    : )

  • Most people don’t notice hours pass, let alone seconds…

  • oh c’mon….i’m havin’ one of those days where hours are taking weeks to pass!

  • JR

    That’d be a weekday.

  • Yikes… Mondays I can understand but Wednesday? Damn, sucks for you.

  • Tan –
    It is funny, I didn’t notice the hours pass at all while I researched and wrote my post.

  • Duane

    Science is so dull.

    The traditional definition of a second being 1/864000 of a mean solar day….

    Shouldn’t that be 1/86400 ? 1/(24 times 60 times 60).

  • don macdonald

    Hi there,

    I was amazed to find by book mentioned here.
    Has anybody read it ?


  • Don –
    No, I have not. But I just finished DaVinci Code and am ready for something new! So, I just may give it a look!