Leap into the beyond – ungrateful internet at odds with 2015’s bonus second

7 Jan 2015

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Time travel enthusiasts rejoicing, internet companies dismaying, it must be that ‘leap’ second again.

The International Earth Rotation Service is at it once more, it seems, awarding us all a bonus second for the second time in three years.

Last time this happened the world almost ended as services such as Foursquare, Reddit, Linkedln and Yelp reported issues.

The pesky planet is to blame, with Earth’s gradual slowing down causing our days to lengthen by two thousandths of a second every 24 hours. So, every three years a second is added to our clocks.

This wasn’t an issue in the pre-internet age, when people’s lives didn’t rely on numerous devices all hooked up to one swinging pendulum of time. Since extra seconds started being added in 1975, though, the world has changed and internet companies have been forced to act.

Google, ever the pioneer, has created a solution, called a “smear around”, according to Phys.org. “It forces servers to use extra time in making updates over the course of the year, which prevents them from ever noticing that a leap second has occurred.”

That seems a fairly logical and easily created fix, but not everyone agrees, with some wanting to change how we determine time. According to Phys.org, and we’re dubious, “some in the technology sector have called for an end to leap seconds – doing away with time based on the Earth's movement altogether.”

Either way, at 11.59 on June 30 – the mid-point of the year – clocks will count up all the way to 60 seconds. That will allow the Earth’s spin to catch up with atomic time. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Man staring at strange clock image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com