Re: [LEAPSECS] timestamps on death certificates

From: Rob Seaman <>
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2003 19:13:58 -0700 (MST)

> Seriously, these are,uh, interesting scenarios,

...that are very similar to actual lawsuits that were filed in the
nineteenth century over the corresponding ambiguity between apparent
solar time and mean solar time or between local time and standard
(zone) time. Wherever there is a contract there is the opportunity
for time based litigation.

> birth and death are processes that do not span a discrete instant
> such that a particular second (leap or not) should make a difference.

This is the same old confusion between periodic and secular effects
again. Banishing leap seconds is a secular effect - it may be small
at any given epoch, but it just piles up and piles up. Errors in
setting or reading clocks, on the other hand, sometimes add and
sometimes subtract - in short, they are random.

> I'm still intersted in finding out about UT1 (or UT2) being the basis
> of civil time; I thought we in the U.S., atavistic though we may be
> about switching to SI units, were at least on track with the rest of
> the world by making UTC the legal basis of civil time.

Why do you assume that the rest of the world has legally adopted UTC?
>From the discussions on this list it appears that many - or most - or
perhaps all - countries have basically no single legal timebase, and
that the assumption that civil time is some constant offset from GMT
appears throughout the world's legal codes. You don't believe this
to be the case? The burden is on the proponents of any change to
civil time to demonstrate that out of hundreds of countries and
thousands of juridictions, that no significant trouble will come out
of making the first significant change to the underlying nature of
civil time in 120 years. Tell me, proponents - have you paid even
one lawyer one cent to consider this issue?

The most embarassing aspect of this situation for the precision timing
community is that not only have they not invested two bits (another of
those crappy American units, huh?) in characterizing the national
and international dependencies on UTC approximating GMT - but they
appear not to even understand why one would want to do such a thing
before making such a fundamental change.

I suspect other folks had the same reaction to the reality of Y2K that
I did - a deep sigh of relief followed by a halo of wistfulness over
missing out on the schadenfreude of watching Ghostbuster scale
catastrophes in somebody else's backyard.

Care to try it the other way around?

Rob Seaman
Received on Fri Jun 06 2003 - 19:14:20 PDT

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