Monthly Archives: June 2015

Remember When You Had Never Heard of a Leap Second?

Today at around 8:00 p.m. everyone received an extra second.  Scientists do this every now and again to make up for the wobble in the Earth’s rotation.  Otherwise, in a few centuries sunrise would take place at noon.  So they add a leap second.  It’s a nice gesture, and my only complaint is that they don’t announce it in advance so that I might have planned to do something with the extra time.

Instead of adding the leap seconds piecemeal, they should save them up and then spend 15 or 20 leap seconds together.  I mean, there’s not a heckuva lot you  can do in one second.  One second is barely enough time to straighten your collar or check that there’s enough money in your wallet to go set a Slurpee or something.  But with 20 seconds – now we’re talking some real time.  You could microwave your coffee that’s been sitting on your desk unsipped because you keep getting interrupted by emails about a new “office refrigerator policy.”

Or you could floss in between a few pairs of adjacent teeth.  Probably couldn’t floss them all in 20 seconds.  But, then again, many people do not floss at all.  Imagine if a few times a year the entire universe of people who do not regularly floss stopped whatever they were doing and flossed for 20 seconds.  The trajectory of dental history would be altered forever.

Or we could even use the 20 seconds to recite the theme song to a television show we liked as children.  Twice a year people could plan what theme song they would sing in those 20 seconds.  They could even plan to gather in one place and sing the same song.  People who hardly knew each other could gather in the cereal section of the supermarket and sing the theme song to Charles in Charge.

Of course, the planning of how to use the extra 20 seconds would take up many non-leap seconds.  That’s the problem with these things.  People take it too far.  There would be books and podcasts and three-day webinars at $299 early registration, all promising to teach you how to get the most out of the next scheduled chunk of 20 leap seconds, “just like the pros.”

So much real time would be used in planning for the leap time that scientists would be asked to stop letting the leap seconds accumulate, and to stop announcing the leap seconds in advance.  And so little would now be said about the leap seconds that the scientists would forget to schedule leap seconds at all.  And after several centuries, we would all be sleeping until noon, which is what everyone wanted anyway.

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