[LEAPSECS] plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

Steve Allen sla at ucolick.org
Mon Oct 25 15:44:44 EDT 2010

On Mon 2010-10-25T12:23:52 -0700, Rob Seaman hath writ:

> Managing the timescale wasn't originally a politically process.

Sure it was. At the founding of Rome the month was something
controlled by the phase of the moon, and that made sense for
the purposes of commerce given that transport of goods was
safely possible on nights when the moon was near full.

Within a couple of centuries the Roman month was a political entity.
Caesar eventually had to assert that predictability of the calendar
and alignment with long term annual agrarian cycles was more important
than the political conveniences of messing with months.

We are all aware of the number of cultures for whom the
actual moon still regulates their notion of month and/or year.
Rome created predictability, yet some folks still reject that.

> 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".

The CCIR committee found that the advent of cesium regulation of
LORAN-C demanded broadcast seconds of uniform length. The proposal
they presented to the plenary session for 1970 did not constrain the
broadcasts to within 1 second of Universal Time. That requirement was
added during the plenary session that approved the notion of leap
seconds, and modified later in response to input from astronomers.

I find the current process not much different. It has been clear for
some years that the time signal broadcasts must abandon the insertion
of leap seconds. One interesting part of the aftermath of the SG7
session a couple of weeks ago was the number of hits I saw from all
over the world to the 1884 International Meridian Conference pages.
(Despite the fact that I point out those TIFFs have been transcribed
to text by Project Gutenberg, people keep coming to my pages.)

So it remains possible that the delegates to WRC 12 will modify the
existing draft proposal to abandon leap seconds in the broadcasts by
changing the name of the ITU-R time scale. That is a matter of
political will.

Steve Allen <sla at ucolick.org> WGS-84 (GPS)
UCO/Lick Observatory Natural Sciences II, Room 165 Lat +36.99855
University of California Voice: +1 831 459 3046 Lng -122.06015
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 http://www.ucolick.org/~sla/ Hgt +250 m

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