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robertogreco : demetriosmatsakis   2

Clocks Are Too Precise (and People Don't Know What to Do About It) - The Atlantic
"No big deal, but abolishing leap seconds could unmoor us from the sun forever."



"But wouldn’t abandoning the sometimes-second eventually divorce the Earth from the sun? This is one of the reasons why Canada, China, and Britain all cling to the leap second, or, at least, did at the last global meeting.

Matsakis thinks such a link has already been lost.

“​We don’t have a connection,” he told me. “We lose the connection twice a year when we go on daylight saving time.”

By the end of this century, the accumulated gap between UTC and what-should-be-the-solar-time would only be about one minute.

“What will happen is that in about 1,000 years, instead of the sun being overhead at noon, it will be overhead at 1 p.m. But by then society will have shifted.”

Hence the Chaucer. “Almost no one can read Chaucer,” Matsakis says, but we don’t freak out about it. Instead, we understand language to be one of those systems that has shifted imperceptibly over the centuries. In 600 years, when scholars translate texts from before the 21st century, they will just know that—in addition to translating or annotating monetary values so they make sense for contemporaneous readers—“noon” needs to become “1 p.m.”

Such a slow shift over time would be worth it, Matsakis said, for all the network failures it would prevent.

“You would [think it was worth it] too if you were one of the people stranded in Australia when Qantas Airlines went down,” he told me.

He recalled how American railroad companies only invented timezones after crashes forced them to. (Between 1831 and 1853, there were 97 railroad crashes—often because two trains, scheduled at close intervals on the same length of crowded track, disagreed about the time.) And perhaps it would be the same for the leap second."
time  clocks  robinsonmeyer  leapseconds  2015  precision  demetriosmatsakis  science  astronomy  physics  history 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Where Time Comes From - The Atlantic
"The time that ends up on your smartphone—and that synchronizes GPS, military operations, financial transactions, and internet communications—originates in a set of atomic clocks on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory. Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for USNO's Time Services, gives a tour."
time  demetriosmatsakis  science  physics  gps  2014  video 
february 2014 by robertogreco

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