‘Leap second’ subject of long debate

Time marches on, but Earth is falling behind. The solution again this year is to add a “leap second” as 2006 arrives, so Earth can catch up with the atomic clocks that have defined time since their unerring accuracy trumped the heavens three decades ago.
This will be the first leap second in seven years, and its arrival will be closely watched by physicists and astronomers enmeshed in a prolonged debate over the future of time in a world increasingly dominated by technology.
Some experts think the leap second should be abolished because the periodic, but random, adjustment of time imposes unreasonable and perhaps dangerous disruptions on precision software applications including cell phones, air traffic control and power grids.
Others, however, argue that it would be expensive to adjust satellites, telescopes and other astronomical systems that are hard-wired for the leap second, and besides, people want their watches to be in sync with the heavens.
Nobody knows how disruptive the leap second really is, but researchers hope to find out soon.
“We’re going to look at what happens this year,” said Naval Research Laboratory physicist Ronald Beard. “If there are no significant problems, the whole issue will go away, but I don’t expect that to happen.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press | 01/01/2006 | ‘Leap second’ subject of long debate