Re: [LEAPSECS] Leap second status?

From: Rob Seaman <seaman_at_NOAO.EDU>
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2002 16:35:11 -0700

> Working Party 7A Broadcast Time and Frequency Services
> Special Rapporteur Group (SRG)

I'm still baffled how it is that the ITU is alone empowered to not only
debate *how* to distribute civil time internationally, but exactly *what*
the definition of civil time should be. The former sounds very reasonable.
The latter intrudes into the domains not only of technical fields like
Astronomy and Navigation, but also into an awe inspiring diversity of
legal, political, cultural, business, historical and religious realms.

> Major changes to the definition of the UTC timescale could have
> potentially significant impact on precise time distribution and
> network synchronization.

I would appreciate some sense that the folks advocating such major
changes aren't merely representing the imagined interests of extremely
narrow constituencies. And further, that proposed solutions address
the actual problems facing the communities involved. Almost any
technical timing issue with any specific time dependent system will
be dead and buried before any change to UTC kicks in. Should we reset
the world's clocks to support satellite or other systems that will be
decommissioned in the mean time? Especially since it is likely that
any systems currently having trouble with UTC would have been better
designed to use TAI in the first place.

> The SRG has held coordination and technical exchange meetings to generate,
> analyze and discuss approaches and alternatives to the currently defined
> leap second adjustment to UTC, and the implications for radiocommunication
> systems.

When this issue first arose on the eve of Y2K, there was some sense that
a good long period of consultation and debate would be required. Exactly
how many meetings have been held? Other than the underdistributed surveys,
what research activities have been undertaken to dig into the implications
of any of the options on the table?

> These activities have resulted in a consensual opinion within the SRG.

I guess I wasn't the only one to miss this opinion while paying attention
to my day job. Could it please be distributed again?

> Given the significance of the definition and use of timescales, the
> SRG wishes to hold an open Colloquium to discuss and present possible
> changes in UTC.

Excellent. One might imagine several such colloquia would be appropriate
to aggressively educate all affected communities around the world.

> This Colloquium is anticipated to be the final opportunity for
> gathering information toward drafting a recommendation to the ITU-R.

Not excellent! The world is to get one and only one opportunity to
comment - and this is only to occur *before* a recommendation is
provided for anybody to comment on?

This is not simply a question of some highly technical issue. This is a
question of defining civil time for 6 billion people - and their unborn
children and grandchildren.

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Received on Wed Nov 27 2002 - 15:41:28 PST

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