What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra Second?

Happy Leap Second Day, everyone. Tonight at 7:59 p.m. E.S.T. we all get a 61-second minute. The leap second has to do with the Earth's rotation, and the fact that time is a manmade construct designed to give us a false sense of control.

Don't let it freak you out.

Well, maybe let it freak you out a little. This is the 25th leap second since 1972, and while there have been no problems so far, scientists still caution that adding an extra second could have serious consequences. As Kenneth Chang explains—

The sporadic adjustments, if botched or overlooked, could lead to major foul-ups if electronic systems that depend on the precise time — including computer and cellphone networks, air traffic control and financial trading markets — do not agree on the time.

But hey, the system has worked so far.

Besides, timekeepers have to do something. The Earth's rotation means that our days are gradually getting longer: the last true 24-hour day was in 1820. But because the rotation is unpredictable, scientists can't map out these adjustments far in advance. Leap seconds are determined six months before they take place.

As for what to do with your leap second, I leave that up to you. If you're going to complain about how a pointless article wasted your time, however, do remember that you have an unusual amount of time to work with today. Be a little grateful for that leap second bonus.

[Image via Flickr/chitrasudar]