World’s timekeepers are going to add an extra second to our clocks today. June 30, 2015 will feature an extra second which is known as the leap second. We all know about ‘leap years’ which feature an extra day. But ‘leap seconds’ also exist and are added to our clocks from time to time. Why? Let’s find out.
Leap years are essential as they keep our calendars in line with the Earth’s revolution around the sun. Similarly, leap seconds are adjustments made to keep our clocks in line with Earth’s rotation which is affected by the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon. This method isn’t new at all. In fact, it is being done for more than four decades now. The first leap second made it to our clocks way back in 1972.
But why should we add extra seconds to our clocks? What significance does this practice hold? Basically, adding a leap second every once in a while allows astronomical time to catch up with atomic time. Ignoring the technical mumbo-jumbo, synchronization of our planet is crucial for things like navigation and even the internet. For example, the 2012 leap second brought down Mozilla, Reddit, and Gawker Media. Adding a leap second tends to cause a lot of chaos mostly because a lot of systems aren’t designed to handle the additional leap second properly.
So every time the Earth slows down a bit, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service recommends adding an additional second to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The final call is always taken by ITU. The last leap second was added back in 2012 and caused quite a few problems across the world. But this year, from operating systems to cellphones, and from stock markets to Google, most have made adjustments to accommodate the extra one second.
Although June 21 is the longest day in a year, but technically, June 30 will be the longest day in 2015. World clocks today will record a minute which will last for 61 seconds. As high-precision clocks around the world get synced with Earth’s rotation, very few people will be affected by the change. So if somebody asks you if you’ve got an extra second, let them know that everyone’s got one today!
(Featured Image Credit: hexus.net)