The Paris Observatory has announced that they are adding another second to this year. So when the clock strikes 23:59:59 on June 30, it won’t go to 00:00:00 like it normally does. It will instead go to 23:59:60 before its strikes midnight. This alteration could cause havoc on computers and websites which could crash, as essentially time would stand still for one whole second on the end of that day.
Therefore the day will have 86,401 seconds instead of the usual 86,400, which is why the Internet may face massive problems. Codes, time stamps and computer algorithms might just have a ‘panic’ attack. The last time the leap second was added in 2012, Mozilla, Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon reported crashes.
Why does this happen? Computer and servers are not used to seeing the same second twice in a row. If you hit a command on the computer in that leap second, the device will not know what to do, and hence will crash. Google has a smart technique to solve this problem. Calling it the ‘leap smear’ technique, the tech giant gradually adds milliseconds to its system clocks before the leap second, to avoid any derail on that day.
This is a lot like the Y2K bug, when computer systems were expected to derail, as they were used to abbreviating the year to two digits and were confused by “2000” and “1900”. However this was just a one-time thing, while the leap second is a more regular problem.
To explain the importance of leap second, the Observatory says that this is essential for the Earth’s rotation to catch up with atomic time. The atomic time is constant, while the Earth rotation slows down every day by two thousandths of a second.
“The Earth is slowing down a little bit. Atomic clocks keep very accurate time. The measurements are telling us ‘Oh, they’re slowing down’. They add an extra second to something called UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) in order to make sure the rate of UTC is the same as atomic time,” said Nick Stamatakos, the chief of Earth Orientation Parameters at the US Naval Observatory to The Telegraph.
This is the 26th time a leap second will be added to atomic clocks. The first one was in 1972, which inevitably means that the Earth has slowed down by 26 seconds since then. However, the advent and massive usage of the Internet is rather recent, hence this discussion is worth bringing to focus.
US argues that this whole system of leap seconds should be removed completely, as it affects precision systems used for navigation and communication. But Britain defends that it would forever break the link between our concept of time and the rising and setting of the Sun.
We can only wait and see what crashes on June 30 midnight.