The Paris Observatory recently reported that 2015 would be longer by one second due to a mismatch between Earth time and atomic time. Tech engineers now fear that the extra second, also called a leap second, would lead to internet chaos as it did three years ago.
Scientists say that the leap second is necessary because Earth has been slowing down by around two thousandths of a second per day. So, a new extra second is required for Earth time to catch up with atomic time.
This year’s leap second is scheduled to be added on Jun 30, at 11:59:60 UTC. It would be the 26th time a leap second is artificially added to world’s clock since 1972.
“Earth is slowing down a little bit. 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,”
explained Nick Stamatakos, researcher from the US Naval Observatory.
Mr. Stamatakos also said that on June 30 there would be 86,401 seconds, rather than 86,400, while the length of the day for everyone on Earth would have an extra second.
Adding an extra second is similar to adding a leap year to the calendar. However, adding an extra second may damage internet systems because many servers get confused about the 61-second minute.
In 2012, when an extra second was added, web services including Mozzila, Amazon, LinkedIn, Amadeus air flight reservation system and Netflix suddenly crashed one second after 00:00. Due to the glitch more than 400 flights were delayed by nearly 2 hours since check-ins were conducted manually, while more than 2 million Americans were left in the dark. Cloud platforms were also affected.
Slower systems such as Ruby weren’t affected by the extra second crisis because its systems didn’t run faster than one second.
To prevent such crashes, Google plans to use the leap smear method i.e. to reprogram its servers to gradually add extra milliseconds to servers’ internal clocks. So, by the time the leap second would be added, servers won’t feel a thing since they would be already using the new time.
Nevertheless, many of the world’s states plan to abandon the leap second system since the damages are too great as compared to the benefits. No matter how strong is the security and planning there would be always a system that succumbs to the change.
Still, experts warn that with no leap seconds, the Earth clock and atomic clock would be mismatched by two to three minutes by 2100, and half an hour by 2700.
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