Re: [LEAPSECS] Leap second status?

From: John Cowan <jcowan_at_REUTERSHEALTH.COM>
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 15:23:21 -0500

Rob Seaman scripsit:

> The problem is that a small
> monotonic secular effect will eventually win out over even large periodic
> swings. (Secular in the sense of "accumulating through a long duration
> of time". Do folks other than astronomers use this term?)

A related sense is provided at (the Merriam-Webster site):
"of or relating to a long term of indefinite duration".

> There is no possible way that society would overlook some goofy scheme
> put forward by us pointy headed poindexters that results in the sun
> rising at midnight (yes, yes - in mid-latitudes). That is one
> inevitable result of terminating the issuance of leap seconds.

I don't think anyone proposes *that*. Rather the desire is to make them
predictable over the medium-long term.

> But more fundamentally, what do we tell the public about the inevitable
> requirement that would be created to reset all the world's clocks at some
> future date?

In fact it will be necessary to *rebuild* the world's clocks at some future
date, when it no longer becomes plausible to claim that solar days constitute
24 hours of 60 minutes each. The only alternatives are to redefine the
second (and throw away all the lists of physical constants), or to break
the dependency of the civil day upon the solar one.

Or am I wrong to believe that the addition of leap seconds will accelerate
in future?

> And so, might I humbly suggest that whatever changes may be made to the
> UTC standard - now or in the future - that the new standard specify a
> solution that is complete indefinitely far into the future?

Unless I am missing something, no such solution is possible, given
the constraints we have put ourselves under (civil day must stay close
to solar day, second must have current length, clocks can't redesign
themselves to display more minutes/hour or more hours/day).

John Cowan
"If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing
on my shoulders."
        --Hal Abelson
Received on Mon Dec 02 2002 - 12:31:45 PST

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