[LEAPSECS] Consensus: Day vs Year (civil timekeeping)

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Wed Feb 9 13:13:45 EST 2011

Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

> First: It's not for anybody but the relevant governments to decide.


> Second: The SI second is the basic unit for civil timekeeping except in societies so primitive they dont have digital wristwatches or cell phones.

I guess PHK is a "relevant government" since he appears to be deciding #2 all by himself :-)

If we take "civil timekeeping" to mean something like:

"the common worldwide timescale underlying the timezones and serving manifold purposes for everybody excepts specialists (and often for them as well)"

then clearly there are several basic units of interest. Certainly the SI-second, but also the synodic day and the year. (God forbid we ever have to argue about the adjectives in front of "year" :-) There are also derived units like the rather mushy "month", the remarkably stable "week" (we may have different Sabbaths, but they all come once every seven days), etc.

The year matters because we have seasons that come and go. The day because we have - well - daylight that comes and goes. The SI-second by comparison is completely arbitrary. There is no controlling external phenomenon. It matters only that the rate is steady. It is remarkable that this completely artificial construct is being put forward as the one-and-only "basic unit for civil timekeeping".

One might also characterize a society without wristwatches or cellphones as "Nirvana", not primitive :-)


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