[LEAPSECS] Cost: getting rid of GMT & discontinuing leap seconds

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Sun Oct 24 19:32:59 EDT 2010

I asked:

>> What coherent system design process led the engineers to select UTC in spite of the existence of leap seconds?

Warner Losh asserted:

> UTC is the only game in town.

The foundation of civil time is universal time, that is - mean solar time. UTC is a widely available realization of universal time. Other timescales are all around.

> It is the legal time everywhere, for all practical purposes[*].

Adding an asterisk does not mitigate all the prior threads challenging this assertion.

> It is the obvious choice because it is the only choice.

Surely system engineering best practices involve paying as much attention to putatively "obvious choices" as to those with known options. (Which is to say that system engineering is about "paying attention".) That attention might amount to something like "yes, the instructions should be in English", but also might amount to "hey, there's an internationalization opportunity here".

That said, UTC is not the only choice now, nor will it be in the future.

> GPS time is weird, as is TAI time.

GPS time is widely available. NTP, for instance, provides proof of concept that GPS is usable (weird or not).

I personally find it weird that the keepers of the atomic clocks apparently want to (also) kill off TAI (International Atomic Time).

UTC with leap seconds is apparently thought "weird" by many here. UTC without leap seconds (thus, no longer a flavor of universal time) would certainly be weird.

Sexagesimal representations are weird (and imply angles - intervals should use decimals).

Time is weird.


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