[LEAPSECS] How good could civil timekeeping be?

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Fri Feb 15 12:01:25 EST 2008

Um - somebody else want to weigh in here on the scientific method?

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

> So far I have yet to see one single example of non-astronomy software

> that needs changed to handle loss of leap-seconds.

And you have access to ATC and nuclear control systems? Has anyone at
Boeing or GE even been informed of the looming doom of mean solar time?

> Given how much software we have seen between the two of us, that

> brings the probability of finding any such software well below 1%.

Please read Feynman's description of the Challenger investigation.
Your statistics are bogus.

> In the other corner, I can point to any and all software that

> includes <time.h> as candidate software that needs to be audited

> for correct leap second handling.

Ok. So that makes two classes of software for the inventory. What
classes of software shall we omit?

> Purely from a cost perspective, any reasonable economist will at

> this point lean heavily towards throwing leap-seconds out.

"Reasonable economist"? Thanks for the chuckle. Ask a risk
management expert.

Here's a scenario. An accident occurs. Lawyers for the plaintiffs or
for any of the injured parties (passengers or whoever) find out that
no notification was sent following a change to a timekeeping
standard. Or perhaps a detailed memo was sent - but the defendant
never performed a risk management assessment. Let's imagine the
accident had nothing to do with the timekeeping standard. How would
this be proved?

And who would the lawyers go after?

> The first thing you have to do, is turn the "virtually zero"

> into "non-zero" by finding at least one piece of software outside

> the realm of astronomy, which would be adversely affected by the

> discontinuation of leap-seconds.

I am (obviously) not the one pushing the initiative for change. The
responsibility for making a case falls on the party pressing an
issue. A coherent risk analysis is precisely the way to make their
case and mitigate future liability.

Rob Seaman

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