Leap Seconds And The Olympic Games
I'm no Einstein but:
Just in time for the Olympics, planet Earth recently added a leap second.
For those of us who aren't able to leap for an entire year, a leap second is more like it.
Even the most out of shape person can leap for a second, leaving leap minutes, leap hours, days, weeks, and months, along with leap years, to the professional athletes.
Seriously, a leap second was added by international timekeepers who committed their deed, like cat burglars, at midnight universal time, which is of paramount importance for all twentieth century foxes.
Oh, something about a combination of factors. The usual technical guff. According to Daniel Gambis, of the Earth Orientation Service in Paris (yes, France), the Earth is slowing down because of the tidal pull of the moon.
Aren't we all?
Meanwhile, an atomic clock is just half a tick too fast.
Those factors in combination, they say, means that every now and then our world observes a leap second-oh, look, there goes one now. Did someone get a photo?
The old Earth can't get up off its axis like it once could. News accounts quoted Geoff Chester, speaking in an official capacity on behalf of the U.S. Naval observatory-the place that hordes all of our atomic clocks (so don't put one on your Christmas list).
What Chester said, if I understood him correctly, is that the Earth rotates on its axis, a pretty nice trick, and that a full rotation constitutes a day.
Pretty embarrassing, actually. If any of us took an entire day to rotate on our own axis we'd be set upon by gym teachers and physical movement gurus. But the Earth, obviously, gets away with it because it has timekeeping handlers.
The Earth's slowness to rotate on its axis builds up, after a year's time, to a total of about three-quarters of a second. Why? Probably, I think, the Earth may have been eating too many three-quarters of a seconds with cheese and extra bacon at the drive-thru window.
I'll have my three-quarters of a second supersized, the Earth says to the disembodied voice telling it the cost is $4.19, $19.40 or $49.14 (It is so hard to understand, sometimes) and please rotate to the second window.
Gary Cooper would like this: Timekeepers add these leap seconds every so often in order to keep the sun as high as possible at noon. Not So High Noon, in other words, will not star Gary Cooper.
The last leap second occurred in January of 2009 and the next one won't be needed until 2015 or 2016.
Coincidentally, 2016 is also an Olympic year.
Great. Now all of us can get up off our axis and start training to enter the leap second competition, if 2015 doesn't leap ahead of 2016.
My only beef about the whole thing comes with no cheese, lettuce, tomato, special sauce or other condiment but, instead, these words: a little advance notice would have been nice.
If someone's going to add a second to our lives I think it would be good to know so that we could plan to be doing something special.
Leap seconds are always observed at midnight and so, oh, well, never mind.
What's another second of sleep?
I'm too tired to leap.
Because leap seconds involve physics, space-time continuums, and several tablespoons of peanut butter, there is something I do not understand. There is, actually, a great deal I do not understand, as this column too readily demonstrates. But I thought someone much smarter than me once said, and then wrote it in a science book for all of us to memorize and answer on tests, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The only thing I understand about Newtons is that I can eat a fig, but if that physical law is true then why don't leap seconds and leap weeks and leap years mean that there are also recumbent seconds and recumbent years?
There should be an equal and opposite reaction to leap seconds and leap years.
Why aren't there standing still seconds or standing still years?
To think of it another way:
Let the standing still competition be held at the upcoming Olympic Games and I think the gold medal might just be within my grasp.
Oddly-my dog found this quite ironic-earlier this year official timekeepers the world over debated whether or not to stop adding leap seconds but decided they needed more time to mull it over.
Give us a second, they said, just a minute.
Better start training now.
Hold on, my dog, Pugsley, has got something to tell me. What's that? Midnight universal time is actually 8 p.m. on the East Coast? I could have let you eat for another second? What did you just call me? You're going to do what to my axis?