Let's 'End Times' by nuclear clock, not war, by solving the leap second problem. - Part 1
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Let's 'End Times' by nuclear clock, not war, by solving the leap second problem. - Part 1

Sydney : Australia | Jan 19, 2012 at 2:46 PM PST
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Let's 'End Times' by nuclear clock, not war, by solving the leap second problem. - Part 1

This a public announcement for the 21st December, 2012, not without a sense of timing and irony, that an independent solution to the leap second problem, if accepted, will literally end time on Earth for a day; and begin a new time and calendar; Anno Homini, A.H. or D.E.A-U.S ( Dating Earth in the Universal System) – D.E. for short.

In Geneva, Thursday, January 19, 2012, the decision to adopt a new definition of the world’s time scale, Coordinated Universal Time UTC, in which there will no longer be leap seconds, has been deferred until 2015.

With all the genius involved in coordinating time on Earth, it is quite ironic that the tiniest imperfection of one leap second is so problematic the World Radio Conference delegates of the International Telecommunication Union, need three more years to consider and vote on a solution! In fact, this stumbling block has not budged since it first officially surfaced in 2005.

So what is it about this pesky leap second that has stumped a raft of experts to at least 2015? The answer seems to be, not that our ‘techno-Time lords’ are not brilliant – they are! It is that the problem and solution is not just a technical one. It is also political, historical, economical, social and philosophical. There is a famous phrase in mathematics – ‘You can’t solve a problem in its own paradigm’. Somehow, this is certainly ringing true with the leap second problem.

This proposal has been sent to the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, The Royal Society, BIPM France and the ITU headquarters in Geneva to the Australian branch; between 25 12 2011 to 12 12 12 @ 12:12 P.M. for formal consideration.

To read the full proposal please visit - http://www.essayupload.com/view_essay.php?id=151

However, in brief, the dilemma resides in the fact that we have had two clocks since 1955. The first is based on the Earth's rotation as well as its orbit around the Sun, that begins at 12 midnight, at the 0 meridian of Greenwich Mean-time, (GMT/UT1). The second atomic clock keeps 24 hour time perfectly, whereas GMT is slightly out because the Earth’s rotation takes slightly longer than 24 hours.

Up until this point, atomic clocks have been synchronised to GMT/UT1 by periodical leap second adjustments. This Coordinated Universal Time.(UTC), is transmitted through radio signals and allows anyone around the world to set their clock to their individual standardized time zones.

However, this practice has lead to significant glitches in software programmes that were never encoded for a 61 - second minute.

The solution that was postponed in Geneva was to essentially ‘ditch the glitch' – In other words, to drop the leap second.

By doing this, it is understood that the divergence between UTC-UT1 will reach one minute every 60 to 90 years.

Some are for and others against the above solution, as suggested by the Wall Street Journal, in the article -

‘Time to change the way we measure time, according to a U.S. government proposal that businesses favor, astronomers abominate and Britain sees as a threat to its venerable standard, Greenwich Mean Time.’

So the first real question is - is this the best we can do to solve the discrepancy?

The following is an attempt to provide a more lateral, yet logical alternative -

1 That we accept from the get go, that over time, the atomic clock has reached an equal primacy in importance to the astronomical one.

Until this moment, the former was subordinated to the measurement and meridian of the latter. In other words, both systems have shared the same meridian through Greenwich. What is being proposed here instead, is that-

2 Since UTC drifts from GMT-UT1 at an unacceptable inconvenience by leap seconds, or by leap minutes in the future, it is time to accept that there are two clocks, two systems. That time has split in two, or that we have in fact created a double time on Earth. Astronomical time is governed by the solar system whereas human technology governs atomic time.

3. That therefore, we could designate separate prime meridians for these two distinct clocks. This would accurately reflect and resolve the distinctions, with many added advantages.

4. It would mean that the astronomical prime meridian could continue to go through Greenwich, as GMT/UT. This could be retained for astronomical time measurements. It would also appropriately recognize the continuing and historical role that Britain and the West have contributed in the mastering of science, astronomy, human advancement and time on Earth itself.

5 The other prime meridian would begin the Atomic Time, for civic, technical, military, navigational and computer time on Earth.

6. This new second prime meridian could be chosen anywhere on Earth. However, there are a number of good reasons to designate it through Utopia, Australia, (c.136 East Meridian= 0), that could be called Global Utopian Time, or (G.U.T.).

On a practical level, this meridian cuts through as few countries as GMT.

Also, symbolically, having the word ‘utopian', within the name, would align with the fact that atomic time, is in a sense, a more abstract, ideal/Utopian time, removed from the organic nature of the sundial. Also because G.U.T. would represent and function for 21st century matters of time on Earth, ruled by human science and technology, such as the Global Positioning System, not the solar system.

The Utopian symbolism also resonates with the idealism and hopes for global democracy in the third millennia. One that is inclusive of all people. So the fact that the prime meridian would go through an unbroken Australian Indigenous tribal region, further adds to the changed geo-political perception and reality at the deepest of levels.

This change would also reflect the shift in trade and power significance of the current Eastern side of the world, but also allows us to break with the entire rhetoric of East meets/verses West.

We have already entered an entirely new and exciting international phase in human relations, so why not reflect that with a thoughtful and logical shake-up of what time we are in, what time is and where should time be placed on Earth?

This meridian change could also assist in aligning with the natural flow of modern markets, business and diplomatic communications.

For instance, it would reverse the illogicality of the New York Stock Exchange being one of the last to open to one of the first. It may be more appropriate that the holder of the dominant global currency leads the international business week instead of trailing it. Of course, some analysts predict that China will overtake America within 10 years as the leading economic power. However, even if this proves to be true, it makes more sense to bring Shanghai/Beijing and New York closer together with 10.5 hours difference instead 13.5. Besides, predictions are not set in stone.

However, obviously this idea has its own complications. The greatest being that in order for the world and computers to change to G.U.T. would require time to stand still for 9.5 hours to align with a new meridian. This would be a momentous occasion, but its advantages, when examined later below, may reveal the effort to be worth it.

Especially when we need not rush this, but make a firm date, like 2020. Such an iconic date should have an important global way to mark it. What greater way than making time stand still, over one day as it goes around the planet?

One could complain at the inconvenience of this, but consider what was dramatically required, when the Calendar changed from the Julian to the Gregorian – For instance the disorientation felt in Britain, well expressed by Ben Snowden in -

“The Curious History of the Gregorian Calendar Eleven days that never were.”

‘September 2, 1752, was a great day in the history of sleep. That Wednesday evening, millions of British subjects in England and the colonies went peacefully to sleep and did not wake up until twelve days later. Behind this feat of narcoleptic prowess was not some revolutionary hypnotic technique or miraculous pharmaceutical discovered in the West Indies. It was, rather, the British Calendar Act of 1751, which declared the day after Wednesday the second to be Thursday the fourteenth.'

This description alone, explains why only four countries immediately adopted Pope Gregory XIII's Papal Bull, of 24th February, 1582. In fact, it took 341 years to complete the transition. The last adoption was made by Greece in 1923. Of course, there were political, religious and national differences that caused such a long process, but there was also no unified organization, nor the advantage of efficient communication technology to coordinate and implement that change quickly.

In contrast, all the current systems of international law, time coordination, scientific and diplomatic communication all ensure that time on Earth has been primed to take a quantum leap, if desired; as opposed to the literal ‘slow coach' of changes made during centuries of policy decentralization and breakdown of the Roman Catholic Empire.

All the points above are reasons why dropping the leap second would only be the first step to the time problem because it is not just technical, but historical, astronomical, financial, cultural, political and philosophical. There is far more at stake than just technical concerns regarding our time conventions. And if any adjustment will cost 100s of millions of dollars, why just drop the leap second, when it may provide the chance to also align time to our times as well?

That is why it is worth offering a necessarily more far-reaching solution to the leap second problem - One that seeks an entire revision of the placement of time for this so-called ‘third millennium’. The ironies have already spilled out of this dilemma in coordinating time on Earth. None more than what lies behind this spec of time, could shift all space and time on Earth, as we know it.

© 2003-2012 L. L. E. Curtis, Elizabeth Bay, NSW, Australia, 2011. All material is copyright. All rights reserved to Rhyton Pty Ltd.

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Atomic clock
Atomic clock (Photo credit: By Museumsfoto (Deutsches Uhrenmuseum) [CC-BY-3.0-de (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons)
L.L.E. Curtis is based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and is a Reporter on Allvoices.
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