Mass media article on leap seconds

Olson, Arthur David (NIH/NCI) olsona at
Tue Mar 2 14:38:18 UTC 2004

The 2004-03 issue of the U.S. monthly "Discover" has an article titled "Leap
Seconds" by Karen Wright(pages 42-45, but the first two pages are décor and
an introductory blurb).
No mention of the Big Secret (that leap seconds have not been inserted since
January of 1999).

The article states that " software designers haven't adapted very
well to the occasional added second, so experts in air traffic control,
satellite communications, and electronic fund transfers have been lobbying
to abolish the tinkering. A leap second may have caused the Russian
satellite navigation system to crash for hours, and critics claim the added
instants could cause commercial airliners to crash as well." The article
also notes a couple of modest proposals: "Leap seconds could be inserted
every four years along with the February leap day...or leap minutes could be
added every half century or so." (Either proposal, if adopted, would require
changes in both POSIX and the public-domain time zone code.)

Your correspondent's two cents: in setting up the time handling in UNIX, T&R
got it exactly right with respect to springing forward and falling back when
DST goes in to and out of effect--keep the computer counting monotonically
and leave it to the software to translate the monotonic count into a
representation of local time. What's right at the level of an hour is also
right at the level of a second--keep the computer counting at one count per
second, and leave it to software to figure out what should be displayed when
the user asks what time it is.


More information about the tz mailing list