There is only a moment

    If you think that 2008 has finally come to an end and are upset because you did not have time to do something - do not worry. You will have a little extra time. And to be precise - one second.

    On New Year's Eve, however strange it may sound, one second will be added to the time of our lives. This will be the 24th “second of the jump” since 1972 and the first after 2005.

    It can be argued that in one second the cheetah can run about 30 meters, the phone signal will cover 161,000 km, hummingbirds can flap wings 70 times, and 8 million of your blood cells can die.

    As they say, you need to appreciate every second. Especially if this second is superfluous.

    “Leap seconds” are needed to “reconcile” two different time measuring systems. Mankind has traditionally counted the time according to the Earth’s own rotation and its revolutions around the Sun. As part of this astronomical mechanism, the second is one 86400th time of revolution of our planet around its axis. But due to tidal friction and other natural phenomena, this rotation slows down by about two thousandths of a second per day.

    Since 1950, when atomic clocks appeared - the principle of operation of which is based on the period of oscillation of cesium atoms - it has become possible to measure time with high accuracy, up to a billionth of a second per day. But it was noticed that every 500 days or so, the difference between the time measured by this watch and the time measured by the Earth’s rotation is ... yes, one second.

    And now, at unequal intervals, the International Center for Earth Rotation Research, located in Frankfurt, gives a stop signal for the world's atomic clock for exactly one second. This leads to the synchronization of the two reference systems - until the next "second jump".

    “It's a purely aesthetic thing, nothing more,” says Geoff Chester, spokeswoman for the United States Naval Observatory. “Life will not stop if we just forget about the leap second.”

    Perhaps it would really be easier to forget about her. In our digital world, the uninterrupted functioning of the mass of electronic systems (for example, banking) depends on the accurate calculation of time. “Leap seconds” can destroy systems such as mobile phones, GPS-modules, computer networks and in general any equipment that is not capable of perceiving such “jumps”. Chester argues that “leap seconds” could well become a much more serious problem than the notorious problem of 2000.

    That is why experts from the International Communications Union, UN agencies, put forward the idea of ​​stopping the adjustment for “leap second.” Instead, “leap minute” appears ”, Which will be adjusted every century.

    The idea itself was inundated with a hail of criticism. For example, Judah Levin, a time and frequency physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo, said: “A minute is an unbearably long period of time. The only advantage is that the problem is transferred to the distant future, but this does not exempt us from its solution, but only allows us to calm down for a while. ”

    Now the proposal of the Union’s specialists is under consideration, and the final decision will be made at the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2011.

    Everything needs its time.

    “I think doing it is a waste of time,” says Norman Ramsey, professor emeritus of physics at Harvard University, whose work on atomic beam magnetic resonance, which underpinned the creation of atomic clocks, brought him in 1989 year Nobel Prize in Physics. “I am sure that for the vast majority of people this does not play any role.”

    The professor said that he was not going to do anything in connection with the onset of the next "leap second" on December 31.

    “That is all the charm,” he said with a laugh. “I won't even notice it.”


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