- Cory Checketts
- On June 29, 2015
- 0 Comments
Are you ready for the leap second on June 30, 2015? We can confidently say that we are. Our developers have been working tirelessly to ensure your Feedback Genius emails go out without a hiccup. That’s what we do.
But in all seriousness, we’re not too worried about it. Although, the leap second has caused some technical issues in the past.
What is a leap second?
The leap second is a time keeping practice that began in 1972 to ensure it wouldn’t be nighttime when the clock said it was noon a few hundred years in the future. What happens is the Earth’s rotation meanders from the atomic clock because of climatic and geological changes on and within the planet. A leap second occurs on either June 30 or December 31 of a chosen year. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service choose if a leap second needs to happen six months prior to the predetermined dates. The additional second is added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to keep the time consistent with the Mean Solar Time (UT1). If you watch the time on a solar clock when June 30 becomes July 1, it will read like this for three seconds: 23:59:59:, 23:59:60, 00:00:00. This year’s leap will be the 26th phenomenon; the last one happened June 30, 2012.
So what’s all the fuss about a leap second?
The one-second leap hasn’t gotten as much attention in the media as let’s say…Y2K in 1999, but it has created some headaches for tech companies and consumers before. Wired Magazine reported on July 1, 2012, at 3:48 a.m.–hours after the leap second–that Reddit, Mozilla, Foursquare, Yelp! and Gawker all experienced “brief technical problems.” Computer systems typically use the Network Time Protocol (NTP), which is synced with the atomic clock. But when a single second is added, it can create some havoc.
People traveling on Qantas Airlines experienced delays because of the leap in 2012. The problem was reduced to a glitch within the airline’s reservation software. The leap can create problems on GPS devices, banking networks, and air traffic systems.
Google and other technology companies have figured out ways to glide past the added second worry free. Google spreads the one second time increase across a 24 hour period. This process is known as a leap smear. There are other workarounds you can find online, too. But we wouldn’t get too worked up about it if we were you.
Be grateful for the smart people who take care of complex systems that host the things we need and love. Our suggestion, though, is to enjoy your extra one second of sleep because it may be a few years until it happens again.