Saturday, January 3, 2009

Years, Days, and Seconds

It's a busy new year in the Haworth/Pankau household. We're looking a new places, I've got a new car, all kinds of new stuff.

Thank god we got that extra second over the holiday. We gained a leap second. I remember in 2000 there was a big stink because I think we were supposed to skip a leap year (you're supposed to skip one every 100 years) but we didn't in 2000. Whatever. This all stems from the problem of our two main units of long-ish time being a day and a year and that they don't actually line up nicely. So this year, the calender was adjusted by a single second.

Does this seem frivolous to anyone but me? First of all, are you sure? Who exactly was it that was crunching the numbers and said "Oh my God, we're off this year by 1/31,536,000th! This must be resolved immediately!"

Second, how sure are we on the accuracy of our measurement of a year. The ancient Mayans had a 360 day calendar and modern science seems to think that was damned good! But now we've got the time of a body floating through a marker-less void pegged to the second? On the other hand, a second in planetary motion is going to be about 18.5 miles, give or take half a click, so maybe it is legit.

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