Re: [LEAPSECS] Equitable estoppel

From: Steve Allen <sla_at_UCOLICK.ORG>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 23:05:35 -0800

On Sun 2006-12-17T18:48:16 +0000, Poul-Henning Kamp hath writ:
> Regarding an international treaty as a contract is not only pointless,
> it is downright silly.

In this is the kernel of what seems to have been Dennis McCarthy's
greatest fear ever since the 1999 CCTF meeting -- loss of hegemony.

> Contracts on the other hand are bilateral agreements between
> consensual partners of any kind, with the provisio that both
> parties must sign of their own free will.

That doesn't stop people from designing standards and systems based on
certain characteristics of UTC which are perceived to be reliable. A
recent example is

ETSI Standard: Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM); Multiplex Distribution
Interface (MDI), ETSI TS 102 820 V1.2.1 (2005-10)

Note that their definitions in section 3.1 they don't get the French
for UTC right. They give no notion of the relativistic concepts of
proper or coordinate time, but instead rely on "standard SI seconds".
They do not give any references for the definitions of UTC or TAI.

So they effectively create a new time scale which began 2000-01-01,
which increments with magical SI seconds that presumably are intended
to have the same length as those in the TT coordinate frame, which is
presumably intended only to be valid within geostationary orbit
(Mondiale), yet which is intended to be valid for the next 32800 years.
It is apparently motivated by UTC and TAI and GPS time, but not
explicitly based on them.

> But you could conceiveably argue the point, that ITU-R only controls
> time, as far as it pertains to telecommunication and radio transmission
> of time signals, and that each country is free to use another
> timescale for civilian time.

China just defined its own version of the DVD.

It may come to pass that people will notice in the history of time
scales that no time scale has been safe from re-definition, that when
one is redefined it has often abandoned some of the characteristics it
formerly had, that in the cases where such change has caused hardship
to some users of the former version of the time scale the response of
the Time Lords has effectively been "We needed to change it to suit
our purposes. Your purposes were irrelevant. Cope."

It may also come to pass that people notice that Tom Van Baak can keep
time in his basement better than any national government could when he
was born, that throwing some dollars to Symmetricom can put them in
the same situation, and that for their corporate purposes it may be
better to rely on their own time scale than on any externally defined
time scale -- especially if the externally available scales are seen as
transitory political conventions rather than fixed representations of
physical reality.

If there is no implied contract, if there is general recognition that
the current definitions are always malleable according to the whim of
some other entity, then there is little incentive to respect the

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 Mon Dec 18 2006 - 23:05:54 PST

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