Shorter days in the network

18 Mar 2011

You’ve probably heard by now that, among other things, Japan’s March 11 earthquake was strong enough to affect the Earth’s rotation enough to shorten each day by 1.8 microseconds.

If you’ve been wondering what that means for the clocks in telecoms and computer networks (which will eventually notice the difference, even if users don’t), relax – that’s why the ITU invented the leap second.

Network Worldexplains:

In 1971, the International Telecommunications Union added leap seconds from the time scale used by most computer systems, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), to accommodate such fluctuations on an as-needed basis.

With leap seconds, a second is added to or subtracted from the official time to reconcile it with solar time.

The ITU has introduced 24 leap seconds since 1972.

On the downside:

While such adjustments are rarely noticed by system administrators, they can occasionally be problematic for those systems that execute high-speed financial trading, record the results of in-depth research and execute other duties that require second-by-second resolution.

Meanwhile, go here if you’re interested in the science of how earthquakes can make the Earth spin faster.

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