Time. While Mick Jagger boasts that it’s on his side, and Booker T can funkily affirm that it’s tight, for one brief moment tonight, we’ll have all the time in the world. Okay, that’s an exaggeration: we’ll have an extra second. Just before midnight the world will experience a leap second. An extra second is being added to the year to allow the world’s atomic clocks to be in sync with the Earth’s rotation (basically, while a day is defined as 86,400 seconds, the planet doesn’t necessarily revolve that precisely, because large weather systems and earthquakes can affect the speed of the planet’s rotation.) Between 23:59:59 on June 30th and 00:00:00 on July 1st, the clock will adjust itself to 23:59:60. The leap second was first introduced in 1972, and since then leap seconds have been added or removed 26 times. And while most of us won’t notice the extra second, it could wreak havoc on computers.
“In June 2012, when the last leap second was applied, reddit crashed, Gawker went down, lots of Linux servers fell over, and Australian airline Qantas had some computer problems that caused up to 50 delayed flights,” reports arstechnica UK. Granted, reddit and Gawker crashing are not catastrophes (admit it, you’d be secretly happy at the idea) but for computer experts, the leap second can be annoying, as most software is not written to handle leap seconds, and the adjustments have to be shoehorned into the code. Google, like a Silicon Valley God of Time, has a novel method of dealing with the leap second. The company has come up with a leap smear: they will divide the second into millisecond fragments and scatter them throughout June 30th. So yes, the boffins have this leap second thing under control … but I’m still planning to turn off my computer tonight just to be safe.