Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Start your countdown at eleven

Scientists report that the earth is very gradually slowing down, throwing clocks out of synch. To compensate for this, the year 2008 will be one second longer than the year before. This time adjustment, a leap-second, will be added to December 31st, New Year's Eve, at 23:59:59, Coordinated Universal Time.

The planet's rotation around the sun takes 365.2422, which we round down for the sake of simplicity. The extra day in February of leap years compensates for this, more or less. Leap seconds function similarly - they are added (or removed) at the request of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service. The last addition was December 31st, 2005.

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