Re: [LEAPSECS] Wall Street Journal Article

From: Rob Seaman <>
Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 16:50:19 -0700

On Aug 1, 2005, at 12:51 PM, Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

> I think we should give Rob the benefit of the doubt and let him
> elaborate on this, I don't think anybody who argues for the
> leapsecond quirks of UTC to be retained would advocate changing the
> SI second, so he must mean something else...

Here is what I said in the referenced document,
("watch A" means atomic time, "watch E" means solar time):

     "Similarly adjusting watch A's rate, which is equivalent to
M&K's "Redefine the Second" is obviously a proposal that would be
denounced by every physical scientist and engineer on the planet."

And later:

     "Eventually the leap second pace will indeed accelerate to the
point that a monthly (or even weekly or daily) rate fails to sample
the underlying waveform acceptably well. At that point - what? Will
our multi-millennial grandchildren find it reasonable to allow their
clocks to register day for night? Perhaps the thought is that some
entirely different clock will be used (one imagines some futuristic
variation on a "metric" clock). What difference does that make? The
same underlying issues will remain. The rates between the Earth and
the Atomic (or Antimatter :-) clocks will diverge and some scheme
will be needed to synchronize them.

     So - they will need to find some reasonable revision of the
fundamental unit of time. Or more likely, they will define a civil
second that is some fraction longer than the "scientific" second. And
then they will continue to issue leap seconds on a palatable schedule
according to the Earth's whims. (The future PTTI community would have
the freedom to select an epoch for such a change that would
correspond to some nice round number or even ratio of fundamental
physical constants, and thus perhaps even simplify the handling of
time units.)

     Redefine the unit to match the long term variation. Schedule
leap seconds for the short term deviations. That is - adjust watch
A's rate every few millennia AND reset watch E in between."

It doesn't surprise me that few will have read my little counter-
proposal. I'm sure the folks on the SRG/ITU committee have paid
precious little attention to this mailing list since its inception.
A little time spent on Steve Allen's web site (
~sla/leapsecs) could raise the level of discourse significantly.

In general, both sides talk about far distant times to try to make
points about current policies. It is a rare message in this debate
that doesn't have something pertinent (no matter how repetitive) to
contribute. Unfortunately, we have nothing to talk about since the
process has been short circuited by the "solution" imposed by the ITU.

Rob Seaman

National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Received on Mon Aug 01 2005 - 16:50:51 PDT

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