[LEAPSECS] a modest proposal

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Sun Feb 10 17:45:37 EST 2008

Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

> Steve,


> Your proposal is commendable, nuanced and well thought out.

Ok, but then what about providing a well thought out proposal, at
least as commendable and nuanced, for the ITU's UTC whimsy?

> I think you underestimate some of the technical and practical

> issues, but that can be hashed out.

And a number of list members - colleagues in time - believe the ITU
underestimates issues associated with ceasing leap seconds.
Considering nobody associated with the ITU has ever deigned to post on
this list, how are those concerns to be hashed out?

> Compare this with "lets just forget about leapseconds" which will

> give us some astronomers complaining about their instruments and

> computers and potential problems that might happen 200 years from

> now, but which also means "we don't have to muck about with all the

> computers".

Maybe you won't have to muck about with computers - but large expanses
of astronomical infrastructure will have to be refactored by others.
Each missed leap second is 15 arcseconds on the celestial equator -
many time the precision required to point a telescope.

But really, if astronomers' concerns are deemed so easy to dispatch,
why not just dispatch them by putting together a coherent system
engineering plan for the redefinition of UTC that is actually on the
table? Surely it would be better to invest a modest amount to design
a coherent solution, thus saving the vast treasure you are suggesting
Steve's commendable proposal would demand?

Which is it? Either the cessation of leap seconds is a complex
question that demands a well thought out plan - or the cessation of
leap seconds is a simple question for which a plan would be trivial to
generate at the level of nuance required. Either way, is it too much
to expect that an actual plan be written?

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory

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