[LEAPSECS] Regarding the ITU's very immodest proposal

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Tue Feb 12 01:27:34 EST 2008

> A monk asked Chao-chou, "Has the cow Buddha nature or not?" Chao-

> chou said, "Mu."

I suppose one should explain, though explanation subverts the koan.

"Mu" is a call to unask a question. Replace "cow" with "dog" and copy
the koan into a search box for pages of commentary and historical
context. Apologies for the sophomoric pun.

Planning is an unalloyed good for system design. Complex designs
cannot proceed without it. Whereas planning for simple designs costs
little and can reveal significant deficiencies and missed
opportunities. The benefits always outweigh the expense.

To suggest that a particular project demands that planning must not
occur is batty. Hence "mu". Rather, I think such a bizarre political
maneuver is a tacit admission that planning would reveal deficiencies
in the conception of the project. (I'll spare my familiar opinions
about what those deficiencies might be.)

Every comment about some challenge facing an alternative proposal
(such as Steve's) represents a mirror challenge that should be clearly
addressed in a carefully drafted proposal for the ITU scheme. They are
seeking to redefine the nature of civil timescales worldwide - ask
yourself why a decision is being made in haste, behind closed doors
and without a plan. No - I don't think it's a conspiracy, rather I
think their idea is half-baked and they know it.

Just some of the questions that should be addressed before proceeding
to adopt any change to UTC:

1) What funding is required? Where will that funding come from?
2) How will timekeeping roles change? What organizations will fulfill
these roles?
3) Eventually the embargoed leap seconds must be released. How will
this happen?
4) Is there some connection with the standard time zone offsets? How
will this be handled?
5) What risks are being mitigated by the change? How is improvement
to be evaluated?
6) What risks may be introduced by the change? How will the new risks
be gauged?
7) What communities will be disproportionately affected? How will
this be mitigated?
8) Redefining UTC will amplify the importance of DUT1. How will DUT1
be promulgated?

(Not exhaustive and in no particular order. Others will likely occur
to you.)

I'm not looking for this group to address these questions (and the
many others). Rather, the authors of the non-proposal now stewing at
the ITU should draft a real proposal - an actual plan, schedule and
WBS responsive to clearly delineated use cases and requirements.

Is it really too much to expect to see a professionally conceived
trade-off study and risk analysis? Or is it just that in a fair fight
the status quo (continuing leap seconds) is anticipated to beat the
pants off the competition?

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory

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