Long before the world of servility, time was found in the calibration of an individual or in the movement of the planets. Now, however, in a schedule obsessed society bound by clocks, comes the leap second.
With the precise atomic clock came the discovery that the Earth’s rotation was slowing down. Meanwhile, time wasn’t, and if this widening gap was left unchecked, we would soon all be enjoying the sunset at midnight.
Thus the leap second was born, an added second which performs a similar function to the leap year in that it keeps the calendar in sync with the seasons. All the days align nicely, and a sense of certainty prevails throughout the urban cosmos.
However, while the leap second ostensibly keeps all in good order, it also upsets the world wide web, satellite navigation, banking computer networks and international air traffic systems, which rely dutifully on the keeping of time.
There have recently been vehement calls to abandon the leap second, as the margin for error in making thousands of changes to such systems is slim. Nevertheless, the UN International Telecommunications Union failed to reach a consensus on the matter.
The decision to introduce the contentious leap second was made in 1972 by the Paris-based International Rotation Service. Ever since, scientists have decided to slip one in the societal cracks whenever the gap between solar and atomic time amounts to a second.
The most recent of these brief, disruptive bursts of civil tampering occurred in 1998, 2005 and 2008, with their appearance being somewhat irregular. In 100 years time, it is predicted scientists will need to insert up to two leap seconds each year to keep the light in good order.
At present, the leap second is not considered pesky enough to abolish, as one was added just last Sunday. And thank goodness for that, as if we keep paying homage to the atomic clock without its aid, pretty soon we’ll all be eating cereal in the dark.
Although maybe it’s time we stopped worshiping the clock, as cultures around the world indicate the absurdity of such a practice. The South African San Hunters say they can’t schedule when to hunt, instead they “wait for the moment to be lucky”.
Similarly, the Sami people in Norway (and many other cultures) let their children master their own time, as they believe it produces independence and makes them less susceptible to peer pressure.
In England, last Sunday’s event was celebrated with an extra second in bed.
Rama Peanut says
Life my dear friend is full of seconds, monuments of sterility, dischordian enchanted whiskers on the universal cat-face. As they lower me to my internal wombat hole, the seconds fall like tiny bat droppings. I celebrate every new second, a new instant to ponder the teaming life-force slushing angrily in my scrotum. Bless the atomic time clock, blessed be all forces benign and obtuse, bless you oh gardian of the real, deep dark truth.
Your with huge postulations,
Andy Tope says
I have to say your comment is not only lyrical, but on the money. Lovely to hear from your transcendental peanut head.
Lady Luxford says
I set my laptop to the buddhist calendar when I got it just for fun so today is August 16, 2555 BE not 2012 AD as you thought and as any physicist would argue that time is not linear at all in fact past and future are intertwined as in some cases when we get the deja vu etc – I get it heaps – anyway I always liked the Aboriginal seasons – they are much better than the Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter prescribed learning that doesn’t apply to Australia. BUT HOW ARE THEY GOING TO MARKET THAT? bankruptcy and extortion – commercial calendar companies will have their lawyers prove time is …..
Time is how destiny expresses itself in every day life and concourse of events,given the fabric of space. Space is itself due to the presence of matter in it.The ancient Indian metaphysical concept of Brahma and Karma summarises it all.Time is circular since it encompasses matter and that has its limitations.We see time as linear due to logical and sensory limitations.At a certain level of consciousness time ceases to exist.
SURESHKUMAR.S,SCIENTIST AND ADVISER,NIIST[CSIR],TRIVANDRUM,INDIA
Andy Tope says
Lady Luxford of the water!
Thank you for your insightful comment. I will have to read me some Sureshkumar, and maybe some Brahma and Khama.
Do they come in paperback?