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We’re All Getting an Extra Second on June 30 This Year

A leap second will be added on June 30, 2015, because the planet is out of sync with our atomic clocks.

7 JAN 2015

This year will be one second longer than 2014. Scientists have announced that they’ll be adding an extra second, called a “leap second” to the UTC (coordinated universal time) clock on June 30 at 11:59:59.


That means the clock will read 11:59:60. This is because the Earth is moving a little slower than our super-accurate atomic clocks dictate, and it’s getting out of sync. In fact, while atomic time is constant, the Earth’s rotation is slowing down by around two thousandths of a second each day.

"The real simple explanation is the Earth is slowing down a little bit," Nick Stamatakos, the head of the Earth Orientate Parameters at the US Naval Observatory told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

"For that day there'll be 86,401 seconds, instead of 86,400 seconds,” he told The Telegraph.

The decision comes from scientists at the Paris-based International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, who take stock of how punctual our planet is.

It’s not a rare move - this is the 26th leap second that’s been added since 1972, and the last one was added in 2012. But it didn’t go entirely smoothly - lot of the software that supports websites couldn’t cope, and the leap second took out internet bigwigs Reddit, LinkedIn, Gizmodo and FourSquare.

This is because the Network Time Protocol that computers use to sync themselves up with the world’s atomic clocks. And when this protocol sees the same second being repeated on the clock, it assumes that something’s gone wrong and havoc ensues.

Google has come up with a technique to deal with the problem called a ‘leap smear’, but people are still worried about communication and banking disruptions. 

And there are also concerns that too many leap seconds could ruin Greenwich Mean Time forever, as The Telegraph reports:

“Experts also fear that once this link is broken it could never be restored because although the Earth's timekeeping systems are built to accommodate the occasional leap second, adding a leap minute or hour to global time would be virtually impossible.”

But while there are calls form the US government and other countries to get rid of leap seconds altogether due to disruptions, the rest of the world is keen to make sure that the Earth’s rotation and the atomic clock stay in sync. 

Either way, the leap second is coming this year whether you like it or not.

The real question is, what are you going to do with it?

Source: The Telegraph, ABC News

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