ihcoyc: (Default)
You may or may not have been following this, but 2006 is due to arrive late. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service has determined that an intercalary leap second will be added to the end of 2005, making its final minute of UTC ( 61 seconds long. Within the United States, this particular calamity will fall at the end of 7 PM EST / 6 PM CST / 5 PM MST / 4 PM PST, in case you are keeping track.

It seems that the second is no longer defined by the earth's rotation; rather, we use atomic clocks to correct the Earth. This is ass-backwards. A second is a fraction (1/86400) of a day, and a day is as long as it is: it is defined by one full average rotation of the Earth with respect to the Sun. If the earth is slowing down, the second should be growing longer with it.

Not so, according to the powers that be. A "second" (scare quotes distinguish it from a true second) now bears the official definition of "the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium-133 atom." So, to know what time it is, you have to be looking at a cesium atom, and to be able to count to more than nine million very quickly.

It is not surprising that the United States has proposed to unlink time and astronomy, and allowing cesium atom time to wander its merry way unhindered by the planet. It seems to me that this is already a fait accompli. Instead of getting in tune with the universe, we seek to force the universe to get in tune with our cesium atoms. This is what happens when people start using arbitrary units of measurement which are not organically grounded in tradition and tied to the concerns of daily life in which they operate.

I say it's metric, and I say it stinks.


ihcoyc: (Default)

November 2018

25 2627282930 


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Apr. 21st, 2019 03:10 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios