The date has been set for the next leap second – June 30th 2012. Leap seconds help to keep our incredibly accurate atomic clocks in line with the varying length of the Earth day. But there is debate around whether we need them at all…
Part of the show Meeting MIRI and Detecting Dark Matter from the 25th Jan 2012
It has been a long time since the definition of the second was anything to do with the rate of spin of the earth.
We need leap seconds to cope with the slighly varibale rate at which the earth rotates but I dont think we should have them too often, about once per hundred years shoild be enough. syhprum, Thu, 26th Jan 2012
But, if we are always adding leap seconds.
For historical reasons the SI definition of the second relates to the length of the day around the year 1800.
If they want a measure of time that isn't strictly based on the Earth's rotation, why don't they go the whole hog and find something fundamental to base it on instead of using a historical second? Their argument seems to be based primarily on the idea that leap seconds provide opportunities for computer systems to crash, but at least at the moment these systems are tested from time to time and they are programmed to be able to cope. It might be silly to try to eliminate all these leap seconds only to have to have a leap hour at some time in the future which could really throw everything into chaos. But then again, artificial intelligence will be arround long before that time and will be able to make sure there are no bugs in any systems, so maybe it won't matter after all. The reality is that human-level artificial intelligence will be with us long before there's a need to adjust by so much as ten seconds (at which time the leap second will be reintroduced), so the mismatch will never be allowed to grow big enough to matter to anyone other than astronomers. David Cooper, Thu, 26th Jan 2012
"If they want a measure of time that isn't strictly based on the Earth's rotation, why don't they go the whole hog and find something fundamental to base it on instead of using a historical second?"
The Earth is not a very reliable clock. There are much better clocks, so we should use them.
Yep - agree entirely.