24 hours and a Second Longer for June 30th, 2015

Have you ever wondered how accurate our time monitoring is? It has been a millennia since the invention of clocks. According to Wiki, the clock is one of the oldest human inventions, meeting the need to consistently measure intervals of time shorter than the natural units: the day, the lunar month, and the year. Devices operating on several physical processes have been used thousands of years ago. A sundial shows the time by displaying the position of a shadow on a flat surface. There are a range of duration timers, a well-known example being the hourglass. Water clocks, along with the sundials, are possibly the oldest time-measuring instruments. A major advance occurred in Europe around 1300 with the invention of the escapement, which allowed construction of the first mechanical clocks, which used oscillating timekeepers like balance wheels. During the 15th century, Spring-driven clocks appeared. Then clockmaking flourished during the 15th and 16th centuries. The next development in accuracy occurred after 1656 with the invention of the pendulum clock. A major stimulus to improving the accuracy and reliability of clocks was the importance of precise time-keeping for navigation. In 1840, the electric clock was patented. The development of electronics in the 20th century led to clocks with no clockwork parts at all.

This day, 30th of June, the daily hours will gain an additional second worldwide, according to National Space Agency (Angkasa) science officer, Mohd Zamri Shah Mastor, following a rare phenomenon called ‘leap second’.

He said this would mean today June 30, 2015, would be 24 hours and one second long.
Mohd Zamri pointed out that the one second bonus was due to the slower rate of the earth’s rotation on its axis.

He said the earth’s rate of rotation was governed by polar motion (tidal friction, core-mantle interaction) and the weather.

“These factors can cause the earth’s rotation to either slow down or speed up thus the phenomenon ‘leap second’ is something uncertain, and depends on the rotation of the earth,” he told Bernama, here, today.

Mohd Zamri said the one second bonus would be obtained at the end of the day tomorrow.
In this connection, he said the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems (IERS) based in Paris and which serves as a watchdog on the earth’s rotation would streamline the coordinated universal time (UTC) in proportion to the actual rotation of the earth.

“Although the increase is just one second and is overlooked by many, the addition creates an impact on the high-precision timing oriented industries,” he said.

So far, according to Zamri, UTC had been increased by one second 25 times since 1972 with the last on July 1, 2012.

Meanwhile, senior principal metrologist at the National Metrology Laboratory, Sirim Berhad, Dr Mohd Nasir Zainal Abidin when asked whether time, among others, on handphones needed to be manually adjusted, he said all electronic devices would be synchronized automatically with the network time protocol servers.

“The same goes for interconnected or networked computers, and issues on the insertion of the extra leap second is only critical on servers,” he said.

Asked what might happen if a server fails to function properly tomorrow, he explained what had occurred with the same phenomenon last June 2012 on a weekend.

“Even so, globally, about 10 per cent of the network time protocol servers got it wrong. Most servers were fixed within an hour, but some took a day,” he said adding that in Australia, the extra second affected flight check-ins and hit popular websites.

Thus, for “normal” business day tomorrow, he advised that precaution be taken on online businesses, network systems, internet service providers, digital time notary services and applications such as MySQL, Hadoop, Cassandra.

“Some services are taking steps to suspend or cease operation a few hours before and after operation. It is hard to state this accurately because not much was reported.

“However, the problem due to the slowing down of the earth’s rotation and leap second insertion to the UTC must not be ignored, since there are tremendous amount of business transactions that can take place in a second. Furthermore, transactions are not confined to a single time zone,” he added.

Feel the effects of a second already??? I think not. Though it’s so nice to think to have your clocks as precise as possible from time to time ;-)


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