Re: [LEAPSECS] Official Announcement of Conference on UTC Timescale

From: Rob Seaman <seaman>
Date: Tue Jan 7 10:11:38 2003

> The SRG has held several coordination and technical exchange meetings
> to generate, analyze and discuss alternative approaches to reduce or
> eliminate the operational impact of the leap second. The work to date
> has produced a consensual opinion that the SRG wants to present and
> discuss with interested and representative parties.

Will this opinion be made public in advance of the meeting such that
alternative (or consenting) opinions can be fully informed?

I must again voice my objection to the process followed to date. It
is entirely appropriate for such committees to be formed to generate
ideas for discussion. More than appropriate - one wonders what the
precision timing community has been doing for the past quarter century.

But how is it that the process has already moved from generating ideas
to picking one single idea to champion? Any analysis of the possible
alternatives should have been done in public and with all possible
communities participating. I fear, for instance, that the astronomical
participation has been skewed toward a certain subset of the community.
But more than that, have the opinions of legal, cultural, historical
or religious scholars been sought?

Given the obscure and overly technical procedures through which this
committee was formed - isn't it likely that only individuals with a
vested interest in some particular outcome would even be aware of
the existence of the discussion - let alone invited to sit on the

In any event, has the proper question even been posed yet? What does
it mean to "reduce or eliminate the operational impact of the leap
second"? Sure - one way is to completely avoid the issue by decoupling
civil time from the rotating Earth. I won't belabor all the problems
with that idea in this message. Is this goal even possible? Presumably
the precision timing community intends to retain an interest in managing
the civil time standard.

If so, on no matter how long a time scale, a future correction will
eventually be required to compensate for all those missed leap seconds.
Isn't a large infrequent jump much more difficult to manage reliably
than smaller, more frequent steps? Aren't the potential disruptions
of the same order of magnitude as our narrowly averted Y2K nightmares?

Every possible option forces us to plan for future corrections. That
being the case, isn't the best way to manage (reduce or eliminate) the
operational overhead of UTC, rather to acknowledge those required
corrections than to ignore them?

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Received on Tue Jan 07 2003 - 10:11:38 PST

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