Re: [LEAPSECS] what time is it, legally?

From: Zefram <>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 16:38:52 +0000

Steve Allen wrote:

Interesting. What this shows, to me, is that timescales are chosen
bottom-up: legislation doesn't really work. People choose a timescale
according to their needs at the time.

At the start of the narrative people used local solar time, because
that was readily available, unlike clock time. Later on railways
and businesses adopted a common standard, because of their needs to
synchronise, and for a long time this coexisted peacefully with the
customary use of solar time in other spheres of activity. Having two
timescales in common use caused some legal problems in situations where a
law or contract failed to specify timescale; this is a familiar problem.
Standard timezones have replaced solar time in general use because of
an increased practical need for standardisation, and the law followed
general use, it did not lead.

The only point in the story where legislation innovates is in the
introduction of DST. That appears to have met with a lot of resentment
from people who wanted to continue using whatever timescale they judged
most appropriate for them.

I conclude that attempts to impose a fundamental change in UTC are doomed.
Those who want a timescale without leap seconds will use one (indeed
there are some widespread uses of TAI), and it will displace UTC iff
the public finds it convenient. Legal time might change from UT (of
any flavour) to TAI or TAI+offset, but only in response to popular usage.

>I have not counted whether the majority of cases were about
>the time of liquor sales (an issue which had been resonating
>throughout the US for all of the same interval of time) or
>about contractual obligations of insurers.

Insurance cases were the plurality.


I like it. Brings out some inportant features of time units and our
position with respect to them. What does it do at a leap second?

Received on Tue Dec 12 2006 - 08:42:00 PST

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