A day on Earth is not an exact 24 hour period, but it does change slightly every day. Leap seconds are used to adjust the discrepancy between the Earth’s rotation speed and UTC.
However, companies like Google, Meta, Amazon and Microsoft want to get rid of the leap second system. The science media “iflscience” explains why.
What are “leap seconds” and “negative leap seconds”?
Currently, the Earth revolves more than 365 times in one orbit around the Sun. But if you look at ancient reefs, you’ll see that they were spinning much faster than they do today. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Earth rotated 420 times.
As the coral grows, it forms fine layers of calcium carbonate every day. Since coral grows more during the dry season than during the rainy season, calculating the lines of calcium carbonate deposits for each season allows us to calculate the number of days in a year. It’s like a tree ring made more refined.
They found that between 444 million and 419 million years ago, the Earth orbited the sun 420 times, then slowed down to 410 times after a few million years.
Changes in rotational speed are caused by various factors such as changes in sea level and changes in the Earth’s interior, but the biggest factor is the moon’s movement away from the Earth. These two celestial bodies interact with each other, slowing the Earth’s rotation.
This is where the leap second was introduced. The history of leap seconds began in 1972 and has been added a total of 27 times. The leap second concept was introduced by the International Earth Rotation Reference System Service (IERS).
Leap seconds do not have a significant impact on the daily life of the average person. However, it could have a significant impact on satellite communications that maintain solar time (measured by the Earth’s rotation relative to the sun) and UTC.
Also, tech companies like Google and Meta are surprisingly affected. When a leap second is added, “23:59:59 – 23:59:60 – 00:00:00” counts one second longer than it should. These time jumps can crash your software or corrupt your data due to incorrect timestamps in the data storage.
In 2012, a famous story was that a large-scale failure occurred because the Linux operating system used by the American news site Reddit did not think about leap seconds.
So Google, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft and others claim that leap seconds are now malicious and are calling for them to be neglected.
“The Earth is now spinning faster than at any time in the past 50 years,” said Peter Webberley, senior researcher in the Time and Frequency Group at the National Institute of Physics.
Therefore, if the Earth’s rotational speed continues to increase, it is possible that “negative leap seconds”, omitting 1 second, will be used for the first time. It’s hard for tech companies to accept that leap seconds alone are too much of a hassle and they also have to deal with negative leap seconds.
Meta says: “Leap seconds are such a rare event that they destroy society every time they fall. It does more harm than good, he said.
In addition, Meta uses a new tuning method that replaces leap seconds by slowing down or accelerating the clock to disperse leap seconds. Meta spends 17 hours in one leap second. However, this method also requires careful control and failure can lead to failure. Therefore, it cannot also be called a basic solution.
However, it is possible that creating negative leap seconds could cancel the current leap seconds and eliminate this system. If that happens, the big tech concern and the time lag problem may be resolved.
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