[tz] The case against time zones

Guy Harris guy at alum.mit.edu
Sun Aug 17 06:40:17 UTC 2014

On Aug 16, 2014, at 4:58 AM, "Clive D.W. Feather" <clive at davros.org> wrote:

> Lester Caine said:
>> But if the original calculation of number of cycles for a second was
>> wrong everything is wrong now anyway? :(
> It's not calculated, it's defined. The second *is* that number of
> oscillations of whichever atom it is,


"The second is the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom."

(Extra nerdery follows that; for those who are curious at what *temperature* that's measured:

"At its 1997 meeting the CIPM affirmed that:

This definition refers to a caesium atom at rest at a temperature of 0 K.
This note was intended to make it clear that the definition of the SI second is based on a caesium atom unperturbed by black body radiation, that is, in an environment whose thermodynamic temperature is 0 K. The frequencies of all primary frequency standards should therefore be corrected for the shift due to ambient radiation, as stated at the meeting of the Consultative Committee for Time and Frequency in 1999.")

> and the metre *is* the length that makes the speed of light the defined number.


"The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second."


"The original international prototype of the metre, which was sanctioned by the 1st CGPM in 1889, is still kept at the BIPM under conditions specified in 1889."

presumably for the lulz.

The kilogram isn't quite so exotic:


"The international prototype of the kilogram, an artefact made of platinum-iridium, is kept at the BIPM under the conditions specified by the 1st CGPM in 1889 when it sanctioned the prototype and declared:

This prototype shall henceforth be considered to be the unit of mass.
The 3rd CGPM (1901), in a declaration intended to end the ambiguity in popular usage concerning the use of the word "weight", confirmed that:

	The kilogram is the unit of mass; it is equal to the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram.
The complete declaration appears here.

It follows that the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram is always 1 kilogram exactly, m() = 1 kg. However, due to the inevitable accumulation of contaminants on surfaces, the international prototype is subject to reversible surface contamination that approaches 1 µg per year in mass. For this reason, the CIPM declared that, pending further research, the reference mass of the international prototype is that immediately after cleaning and washing by a specified method (PV, 1989, 57, 104-105 and PV, 1990, 58, 95-97). The reference mass thus defined is used to calibrate national standards of platinum-iridium alloy (Metrologia, 1994, 31, 317-336)."

Planck units:


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