Feeds

Hold on a sec - leap seconds granted a last-minute reprieve

Boffins delay decision on using sunrises or atomic clocks to set the time

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A decision to kill leap seconds and permanently change how time is measured has been deferred until 2015 by the International Telecommunication Union.

A meeting of ITU Radiocommunication Assembly reps on Thursday was unable to reach a decision on whether to stop adding leap seconds to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to keep it in check with our world's uneven rotation.

The ITU will now spend the next three years conducting further studies "to ensure that all the technical options have been fully addressed" and to hold further discussions with members.

The US, Canada, Japan, Italy, Mexico and France are reported to have supported the alteration, but the UK and Germany opposed. Other member states wanted further probing.

In a statement, the ITU said its Secretary-General, Hamadoun Touré, considered the move to postpone the decision would "ensure that all stakeholders have been adequately associated with a step which will clearly influence our future".

Leap seconds were introduced in 1971 to keep UTC accurate: UTC is measured using the rotation of the Earth and super-accurate International Atomic Time (TAI).

The problem is that the Earth's spin is not constant - it's slowing down - while TAI is a constant. Leap seconds are added every so often to keep the gap between the atomic clocks and the time according to the planet's rotation at less than 0.9 seconds.

Supporters of the change argue leap seconds are unworkable in the long-term and are an unnecessary and potentially dangerous addition for systems relying on precise time measurements, for example, to pin-point their location. Their opponents claim there's a lack of credible evidence to suggest that serious problems are caused by leap seconds and further counter that computers can easily cope with delaying time for a brief moment.

Decoupling UTC from the rotation of the Earth would bring to an end a millennia of telling time using the spin of the Earth as it orbits the Sun.

The ITU's leadership appears to favour the change as it would eliminate need for what it called "specialized ad-hoc time systems". It added, however: "[This] may have social and legal consequences when the accumulated difference between UT1 - Earth rotation time - would reach a perceivable level - two to three minutes in 2100 and about 30 minutes in 2700." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.