moldybluecheesecurds 2

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Redefining pie

Make every second count, because you never know when you might have an extra one?

Actually, the addition of "leap seconds" to our clocks has been happening since 1972, when scientists working with atomic clocks realized that Earth's rotation is actually slowing slightly. The problem comes with computers, which are sometimes hard-programmed with 60-second minutes. It's a little hard to reprogram a computer chip, although it's been done.

I'm more interested in what this scientific discovery of earth's slowing rotation means for our standard definitions of time. If Earth continues to slow, then minutes begin to be longer, containing more seconds, in order to keep the standard of 24 hours, 60 minutes per hour. But really, the definition of an hour is 1/24th of an earth rotation, a minute is 1/60th of an hour, and a second 1/60th of a minute. So shouldn't we really be redefining what a second is, instead of adding extra ones?

It's kind of like saying that each pie tin is a little larger than it used to be, so instead of making the slices (or pies) bigger, you just mash an extra piece in there every once in a while. Maybe we need to redefine what a pie is.

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