In search of lost time

20 02 2008

NewsAs internationally tuned atomic clocks become the universal norm, people are unintentionally losing something: time. Ever since the introduction of atomic clocks in the 1950s, the world has been faced with a problem of synchronicity. As it turns out, atomic clocks cannot accurately predict the length of a day on Earth. This is because the Earth’s rotation and revolution are always going through minute changes.

Clock

Not many people realize that the second is slowly getting longer. As we sit watching clocks during class, it definitely seems like time is slowing down, but we always assume that it will start going normal speed again as soon as we stop watching. The second is getting longer because the old system of time measurement was based on fractions of the Earth’s rate of rotation. As it turns out, the Earth’s rotation is slowing down, so the days are getting longer and our trusty time measurements are constantly changing as well. Even more troubling is the fact that the rate of change is not constant or predictable, so scientists are always kept on their toes to keep the world’s time in sync.

As a result, all units of time were frozen in the 1980s. To make up for the lost time, scientists introduced leap seconds, which can be added whenever it is deemed appropriate. The last leap second was added in 2005 unbeknownst to billions of people. Technically, it is erroneous to suggest the leap second was added in 2005. The leap second occurred between 23:59:60 on December 31st, 2005 and 00:00:00 on January 1st, 2006. For all intents and purposes, it did not exist at all.

I have lost nine seconds of my life so far. They happened when I wasn’t paying attention, and I feel a great loss knowing I can never have them back.

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