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

New hybrid storage solutions

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." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
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.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.