So, being the techy geek that I am, I am braced for potential computer related chaos as a leap second is added to global clocks. Just before midnight tonight all clocks will read 11:59:60 to allow the Earth’s rotation to catch up with atomic time.
It’s actually pretty serious stuff to those in the technology arena. The last leap second was added in 2012 and some of the world’s leading tech firms including Mozilla, Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon all reported crashes. Linux operating systems also suffered and also programs written in Java.
Nearly 400 flights in Australia were grounded as the Qantas check-in systems crashed. My fellow geeks, I should really say ‘experts’, at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) will officially add the leap second to UK time and they have warned that markets which are already jittery from the economic turmoil in Greece could suffer transaction delays if their software is not prepared. Leap seconds are introduced sporadically and it is very difficult to implement them in computers and therefore mistakes could cause systems to fail temporarily.
European markets will thankfully be closed when the change comes into effect but other parts of the world including the US, Japan, Australia, South Korea and Singapore will be merrily trading when the clocks change and the US seem concerned so much so that they plan to stop activity early.
I love the fact that BT’s speaking clock will add a second’s pause just before the third pip and Google has gone as far as developing a special technique to deal with what it refers to as “Leap smear” and has gradually been adding milliseconds to its system clocks prior to the official arrival of the leap second.
Atomic time is constant but the Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down by around two thousandths of a second a day. Therefore it is essential to add leap seconds to ensure civil time does not drift away from time based on the Earth’s spin. If we failed to correct time in such a way then our clocks would display daytime in the middle of the night for example.
Us techies waited nervously when we ticked into the year 2000. We thought then that systems may crash but thankfully nothing too untoward occurred so this could well be a similar case. We shall just have to wait and see!.