3,2,1,1, Happy New Year!

Our view: Nature trumps technology for just a second, and that's good news

January 01, 2009

Just when you thought you couldn't stand another minute of 2008, the world's timekeepers made it longer. Yesterday, in the blink of an eye, they added an extra second to place official clocks in sync with the planet's rotation.

The problem is that while atomic clocks tick on with annoying precision, Earth's rotational spin is actually slowing down, extending the solar day. The last leap second was added Dec. 31, 2005.

If clocks weren't reset, future generations could eventually face early morning sunsets and find themselves cheering the New Year's Eve ball dropping in the bright sunshine.

While most of us never noticed yesterday's tiny shuffle, any number of high-tech businesses, such as cell phone companies and satellite communications operators, routinely slice time into even smaller segments, and some find the periodic addition of a leap second annoying.

Some have even advocated replacing it with a much less frequent leap minute, a move that would pass this problem, like so many others, along to future generations. But we favor keeping the leap second right where it is, a friendly reminder that, like aging editorial writers, Earth is slowing, just a bit.

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