worthy challenges

From: Rob Seaman <seaman_at_NOAO.EDU>
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 10:57:58 -0700

Ed Davies wrote:

> By "rubber seconds" you, presumably, mean non-SI seconds. What do
> you mean by "rubber days"? I'd guess you mean days which are
> divided into SI seconds but not necessarily 86 400 of them.

Yes. See for instance:


As a parochial note, ones suspects that the "astronomers" are seen by
many as reactionaries about leap seconds. The reality is that we're
willing to consider dramatically deeper and broader changes than have
been proposed. The alternative to actually addressing the complete
and complex needs of some situation, however, is often to continue to
muddle through in the mean time with an imperfect solution that has
been inherited - and not coincidentally, that has been thoroughly

How is it possible that the precision timing community is advocating
for simply throwing up their hands in disgust and attempting to sweep
the whole thing under the rug for 600 years? A difficult challenge
is what engineers live for - the resulting triumph all the greater:

"If I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon,
240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket
more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of
new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented,
capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than
have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better
than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for
propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival,
on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return
it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over
25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the
temperature of the sun [...] and do all this, and do it right,
and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold."

Our challenge is to build a system of timekeeping worthy of our
children's children.

Rob Seaman
Received on Tue Jan 24 2006 - 09:58:40 PST

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