• 5th January 2017

How #Teddington added an extra second to 2016

How #Teddington added an extra second to 2016

Many lauded 2016 as a terrible year with political uncertainty higher than ever before. However, Sir Mo Farah, who trained in Teddington at he beginning of his career made the honours list so there was cause for celebration after a long, hard year. 

How better way to celebrate than add an extra second onto the year so we could savour the moment just one second longer.

That’s what the National Physical Laboratory did on New Years Eve as they added a leap second which meant that the clocks read 11:59:60. This was not just to celebrate Sikr Mo’s achievement however, or to have an extra second guzzling champagne, it was to allow for the Earth’s rotation to catch up.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve gained a second, the first leap second was added in 1972 and since then their have been 26 more added.

Dr Leon Lobo, of NPL’s time and frequency group, said: “Most people won’t even notice, although everyone will probably be celebrating New Year a second too early this year.

“People might also notice problems with mobile phone networks as they work on atomic time and, with the increased traffic on New Year’s Eve, there could be potential issues.

“Inserting a leap second is necessary because the Earth is wobbling and slowing down and over time that divergence could cause problems.”

The modern world runs on atomic clocks,  keeping time by measuring the movements of electrons in cesium atoms.

Atomic time is constant but the Earth’s rotation slows by about two thousandths of a second per day. At the time of the dinosaurs, Earth completed one rotation in about 23 hours.

 

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