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A Second of Time to be Added at Midnight Tonight

We have two major ways of measuring time: Atomic clocks provide the standard and then there’s the Coordinated Universal Time system. Before the advent of the atomic clock, we based our measurements of time on the rotation of the Earth. What the atomic clock does is measure time based on atoms and is therefore much more refined and accurate. The Earth’s rotationĀ isn’t as consistent and it’s for this reason we must every so often add a second to our clocks to make sure everything doesn’t come crashing down. Today is one of those days.

So atomic clocks will have an extra second inserted just before midnight tonight. Instead of turning straight to July 1st, they will first go fromĀ 23:59:59 to 23:59:60. We do this to ensure that both systems of measurement maintain as close a relation as possible. The variations in the Earth’s rotation means that it doesn’t always match. Some folks might says, “why bother” and just let it go. But it’s actually kind of important to make sure the two so closely resemble each other.

There’s some concern that communication would break down between the variety of equipment in the field that are based on different systems of time. If we allowed the second to go by unobserved, they would amount to more than just the second. Two months worth would be a minute and so on. Soon, they would — scientifically speaking — have vastly different timestamps amongst the various platforms.

So enjoy the extra second with your loved ones because it’s happening tonight. Or video games. Whatever floats your boat.

(via Discover Magazine, image credit via Matthew Kirkland)

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