Today an extra second longer
Sun, 01 Jul 2012 6:09p.m.
By Dan Parker
If you thought that today went slowly for some reason or that your two minute noodles tasted a little over cooked at lunch, your instinct was right, but only by a second.
At 11:59am today all atomic clocks around the world had a "leap second" inserted in them.
The Earth's rotation is slowing and scientists believe one day in the very distant future it may stop spinning altogether.
To account for this slowing, the leap second was invented – just three years after the first man peered back from the moon.
It was one small adjustment to time, but a giant leap forward for timekeeping.
“A leap second is an attempt to keep the atomic and the apparent time of day which you measure though the sun in line,” says Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) of New Zealand director Tim Armstrong.
Just before midday today, the 25th leap second in history was added to the atomic clock – 11:59am was a 61-second minute.
There are many worthy reasons to care about something as small as a second, such as when it comes to records like the world's fastest sprinter.
But before long, even a leap second may be not be enough. The rate at which the Earth's rotation is slowing means it may be upgraded it to a leap minute.
And scientists believe events like the Japanese earthquake may also speed up the big slowdown.
“When the Japanese earthquake happened, there was a suggestion that the Earth had slowed down because the rock had moved up,” says Mr Armstrong. “So the Earth is rather like an iceskater spinning around – if they put their arms out or you move a bit of rock up, then the Earth slows down even more, and on a day-to-day basis.”
At time of the dinosaurs, it's believed Earth completed one rotation in about 23 hours.
So while the slowdown won't really be noticeable in our lifetime, in 60,000 years, midnight now will look more like midday.
Post a Comment
Before commenting, please take the time to read our moderation guide
(Won't be published)
Nanotechnology expert Michelle Dickinson appeared on Firstline this morning to discuss the week's top science news.
A 15-year-old school student has developed a new test that could detect cancerous tumours before they become too advanced to treat.
Parliament has passed amendments to the Crown Minerals Amendment Act which restrict anti-mining protests.
Wellington philanthropist Gareth Morgan has announced his latest project: to make the whole of Stewart Island predator-free.
A group of keen bird lovers in America is proving there's a lot more to bird watching than meets the eye.
Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV. All Rights Reserved.