The Truth is Out There

From: Steve Allen <sla_at_UCOLICK.ORG>
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 2005 18:46:27 -0800

In 2004 the USWP7A submitted a draft proposed revised version of ITU-R
TF.460, the document which defines UTC. The document was submitted to
the ITAC-R and reviewed according to Department of State guidelines.
The archival version is still available from the FCC website:

This document proposed that as of 2007-12-21 the nature of UTC should
change such that there would be no further leap seconds. Indications
are that the year 2007 was chosen as a result of discussion at the
2004 CCTF meeting where representatives of the EU Galileo navigation
satellites requested that any change in UTC be effected before their
system would become operational. The document was presented at the
WP7A meeting in November 2004. There were objections, most notably to
the proposed date of transition when UTC would cease to have leap
seconds. December of 2007 would be only about two months after the
next set of general assemblies of the ITU-R.

During 2005 the USWP7A initially proposed to submit effectively the
same document. This document has gone through the Department of State
review process. I have a web page with most details on that:

The significant difference in the 2005 version of the document is that
the date of transition has been changed from 2007-21-21 to December 21
of the year five years after adoption of the change by the ITU-R.
Five years is undeniably a bit more reasonable than less than two
months, but it is still not clear that it is enough time to bring
products to market, upgrade software, change legal documents, etc.

(It is a bit strange that the 2005 document from the US has not been
contributed to the ITU-R WP7A meeting. I can only surmise that the
public review process in the US generated enough objections to
cause the Department of State to withhold it. It is also strange
that all traces of the 2005 draft seem to have vanished from the FCC
web site. Last year's draft is still in the FCC web archives.
This year's draft is only available on my web page.)

The process by which ITU-R recommendations are approved is here:
The rules say that recommendations can be changed by correspondence
if there are no objections, but that if there are objections then
the change must be approved at a Radiocommunication Assembly.

Media reports on the process have indicated that Lord Salisbury of the
UK has directed that the UK DTI shall oppose a proposal which causes
UTC to deviate from GMT. If that holds true during the ITU-R WP7A
meeting in 2005 November then it seems likely the issue of UTC will
have to be presented to a Radiocommunication Assembly.

The next Radiocommunication Assembly will be held in 2007.
If a majority of the members approve the change to UTC at that time,
then the effective date of the change to UTC would be 2012-12-21.

The culturally astute will recognize that as a significant date.

2012-12-21 is one great cycle, or 13 bak'tuns (5128 years) after the
long count of the Mayan calendar began. The priest/astronomers who
set up the calendar some 1500 years ago saw no reason to be able to
count further, so for many central American cultures that is the final
day that can be represented. (My mom just returned from two weeks of
exploring the Mayan territories and dining with its cultural remnants.
Hi Mom!) The significance of this imminent end of a calendar has been
included in the apocalyptic world views of more than a few non-Mayans.

For example, the date 2012-12-21 was written into the lore of the
long-running TV series The X Files. The series hinted that on that
date the Mother Ship might return. (If actually pressed by the
production of any X-Files movie sequel I suspect that Chris Carter
would find some other significance to that date. Perhaps he would
offer that as the date that Mulder and Sculley's kid hits puberty and
develops some new alien power.) But in this whole paragraph I

Some of the reporters who have talked with me have asked me whether I
believe there is a conspiracy to abolish leap seconds. I reply that
the proponents have been dining together at international conferences
for decades, but that does not mean there is anything sinister.
Still, for the date in the 2005 draft by the USWP7A I have to
congratulate D. Wayne Hanson, Ron Beard, and anyone else who has been
contributing to the US document. They could hardly have created a
better gift for the conspiracy theorists. It's especially cool that
it looks sortof like they tried to hide the actual date.

During the years while this process of contemplating changes to UTC
has been going on I sometimes remind folks that there will be other
changes in astronomical standards and civil systems which will have
side effects that trigger expenditures for new hardware and labor. If
UTC is changed then that's part of ongoing operation and maintenance
of a system. You just have to keep it in perspective.

After all, it's not like the world is going to come to an end.

Steve Allen                 <>                WGS-84 (GPS)
UCO/Lick Observatory        Natural Sciences II, Room 165    Lat  +36.99858
University of California    Voice: +1 831 459 3046           Lng -122.06014
Santa Cruz, CA 95064     Hgt +250 m
Received on Tue Nov 08 2005 - 18:47:50 PST

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