Tomorrow, on June 30th the folks that know about these things are going to add an extra second to the day. This leap second should synchronize our world clocks with reality – the reality that our earth is just slightly slower than our hyper-accurate atomic clocks.
On a perfect world there are supposed to be 86,400 seconds in a day (assuming that there really are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute), however the earth doesn’t always spin by manmade rules and actually takes about 86,400.002 seconds to complete a revolution. So, as the days pass and those .002s begin to accumulate our precious atomic clocks get farther and farther off.
If we don’t occasionally resynchronize our clocks with the earth’s spin eventually our clocks would strike noon seconds, minutes or even hours before the sun is actually directly overhead.
If you were wondering why we don’t just build in automatic adjustments of 3.65 seconds every five years or so the problem is that the earth isn’t exactly .002 seconds slower every day. Some days it spins just slightly faster, some days it spins just slightly slower.
It’s a bit like leap years and leap centuries. There aren’t really 365 days in a year even if our calendars insist there are so we have to tweak things every four years. But even adding an extra day every four years doesn’t really solve the problem entirely so we have to skip leap years every hundred years or so.
So is one second going to make a big difference in your life? It depends on how much your equipment relies on keeping super-accurate time. Adding an extra second could confuse some banking systems, scientific experiments, military systems, some computer systems and possibly even the Internet.
Then again, it could all be another Y2K non-catastrophe. Seconds come and seconds go and it doesn’t really seem to effect much. So spend your extra second wisely or foolishly, I’m pretty sure the earth won’t care.