[LEAPSECS] Happy Birthday Pluto!

Brian Garrett mgy1912 at cox.net
Mon Feb 18 16:20:59 EST 2008

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rob Seaman" <seaman at noao.edu>
To: "Leap Second Discussion List" <leapsecs at leapsecond.com>
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2008 12:43 PM
Subject: [LEAPSECS] Happy Birthday Pluto!

Surely the generous gifts of the Kofedix Dunark of Kondal upon the
planet Osnom:

> [...] [T]he chronometer upon his wrist, which, driven by wireless

> impulses from the master-clock in the national observatory, was clicking

> off the darkamo with an almost inaudible purr of its smoothly-revolving

> segments.

> - E.E. Smith, The Skylark of Space, http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/20869

Thus anticipating modern radio-controlled clocks and watches by 60+ years.
The guy's writing style may have sucked rubidium, but he knew his horology.

Remarkably, Hubble's settling of the Shapley-Curtis debate on the
nature of the galaxy (and the universe) was roughly contemporaneous
with "Doc" Smith's imaginative (if leaden) fiction. Closer to home,
on the question of the scale of our solar system, Pluto was not
discovered until 18 February 1930. Happy Birthday Pluto!

Now that Pluto has been evicted from the realm of Real Planets, and banished
to the drug-infested back alleys of the Kuiper Belt, relegated to
gangbanging with the likes of Quauoar, Sedna and Eris (and all for not
cleaning his room, uh, neighborhood) I'm not sure this is cause for
celebration as much as it used to be.

Not only does a clock make a thoughtful gift upon landing on a new
planet, but we have examples of thoughtfully diurnal timekeeping on
another planet in the real universe - `namely the two rovers on Mars.
As I type this, it is 23:09 local mean Martian time
) for Spirit and 11:08 for Opportunity. Nearing midnight for one and
noon for the other. ` Moreover, to resolve any doubt of the intent,
Spirit is depicted on a darkened landscape, Opportunity in daylight
(marsrover.nasa.gov). It is noted that the rovers are each 1350+ sols
past their design life. (One doubts the distinctive name for a
Martian day, "sol", derives from a type of flatfish.)

It is possible that the highly evolved Kondalians and Norlaminians
handed their terrestrial visitors the equivalent of pure atomic
clocks, unsullied by the vagaries of the local sun (or suns). Smith
doesn't say. I think it more likely, however, that our spacefarers
were graced with a watch set to local time precisely to permit them to
keep track of the unfamiliar cadence of the daylight hours. A clock
is a rate, not just a zero point (and UTCng breaks both).

Sputnik was launched on 4 October 1957. Nine months later to the day,
I was born. Likelihood of causal connection? Low (although "baby
boom" in Russia is the "Sputnik Generation").
Looks like the Russians weren't the only ones seeing rockets that night...

Sputnik was launched. Ten months later, NASA was founded with the
signing of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. Likelihood
of connection? Quite high.

For the sake of avoiding conflict, I've learned my lesson and will
stay away from more fanciful speculations. For instance, I won't
strain credulity by trying to tie the fact that the Mars Rover mission
has been extended by a factor of 16 beyond its design life, to some
silly musings over whether system engineering best practices were
followed. What was I thinking?

You don't suppose that overpriced piece of crap that's falling to earth that
the Pentagon's talking about shooting down (no, not Britney Spears' career,
the OTHER one) was done in by leap seconds or DUT1 differences, do you?

Brian Garrett
trying desperately to keep this caffeine-driven bit of silliness on topic

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