[LEAPSECS] Saint Crispin's Day

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Mon Oct 25 15:23:52 EDT 2010

On Oct 25, 2010, at 11:50 AM, Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

> How could it ever be considered good design to embed a politically

> controled timescale, subject to lots of valid scientific criticism,

> into the design of astronomical equipment ?

Managing the timescale wasn't originally a politically process. The predecessor organization to the ITU-R did not assert "we own time", they asserted, "we will provide time signals commensurate with universal time". Unintended consequences have resulted in this naive notion that ITU-R actions should trump the clear definition of "Universal Time".

Obviously all benefit from a system of coherently defined time signals. My thesis is that to be coherent such a system must acknowledge physical reality: interval time is something other than Earth orientation time. Both types of time are embedded in manifold ways in the systems and conduct of our days.

In particular, the notion of a "day" only makes sense from the point of view of Earth orientation. Civil timekeeping is derived from the calendar. Saint Crispin would agree.

In the absence of leap seconds or some other mechanism to slave UTC to Universal Time (with some tolerance and under some schedule), UTC would not be Universal Time. Thus - call it something else.

I'm pleased you think my criticisms are valid.


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