[time-nuts] Re: UTC

Poul-Henning Kamp phk at phk.freebsd.dk
Wed Jul 27 17:09:15 EDT 2005

In message <42E79591.9010609 at erols.com>, Chuck Harris writes:

>> For almost the entire population, time is defined as SI seconds,
>> 60 of which is a minute, 24 of which is an hour, 365 of which is a
>> year.
>That is correct, but you must also remember that 99 and 44/100ths of
>the population would do just fine with a timepiece that had no second
>hand.  Seconds are just a frill to civil timekeeping.

Weeeelll, almost.

You see, the technocratic part of the population is very busy
spinning a technological net around the rest of the population, a
net where seconds can cost you fortunes one example being the mobile
calling-plan where calling out of the time-window cost $100 a minute.

Also, online communities like various games, virtual worlds and
eBay tick on seconds and people get very upset if things don't happen
when they think.

>If you have been watching the population in general, you may have noticed
>that there is a decline in the number of people that have any interest in how
>things work.  When I was a kid, there wasn't a toy, or appliance that was
>safe from my curiosity.  I suspect that you were the same.  Now, with the
>exception of sadistic impulses that remove the heads from dolls, kids don't
>take their toys apart.  They just want them to work, and when they stop, they
>throw them away.

It may not be their fault.  Have you tried taking modern toys apart
?  Or a radio ?  A TV-set ?  There is nothing in there our kids can
learn anything from :-(

>The point being, the needs of the population-at-large is not a valid 
>reason for making a decision as to whether we need leap seconds, or don't.
>The population-at-large just doesn't care, *at all*.

"Doesn't care about leap-seconds" doesn't save your life when some
visual-basic genius has programmed some piece of hi-tech you have
no choice in using or not.

Just because people don't care or notice, doesn't mean not important
to them.

Most people don't care about water, sewers, electricity and civil
order.  That doesn't mean it's not important to them.  They care
a lot as soon as it doesn't work.

>> There is a well defined formula that streches indefinitely into the
>> future, which inserting an extra day almost every fourth year, for
>> reasons most people do not claim to fully understand.
>They don't need to understand it, they just need someone to tell them
>that that is the way it is, and they are happy.  Don't forget, they don't
>care about the details of how things work.

Right, fine.  So give me a leap-second formula that works for at
least 25 but preferably 100 years and I'll have no trouble with it.

>Certainly we can.  As I said earlier, 99 and 44/100ths percent of the
>population has no need for seconds whatsoever.

Again, your argument is based on the assumption that just because
people don't now about leap seconds means they won't get harmed
by one.  It doesn't work that way.

In fact, they're probably more likely to get in harms way, because
unlike the people who know about the leapsecond and the lack of
proper implementation will probably just wait for the next lift,
just in case.

>> Robs position, as I understand it is "fine, fine, fine! just don't
>> call it UTC!" and that is not economically feasible either IMO.
>I don't believe that is his position.   I believe his position is more
>similar to mine, and that is we have defined UTC to be based on
>solar time at the prime meridian, the definition has worked adequately
>well for those applications that UTC is intended to handle, and there is
>no good reason why we need to change the definition at this time.

No, your position is diffrent from Robs, you just don't recognize
the potential for harm at all, Rob at least recognizes that.

>> Leapseconds is not a scientific or astronomical issue, they are
>> an economical issue.
>No, I don't think so.  The economy doesn't know what a second is.

Until after a leap-second hands in the unbudgeted expense or if
we are lucky: the budget request.

Poul-Henning Kamp       | UNIX since Zilog Zeus 3.20
phk at FreeBSD.ORG         | TCP/IP since RFC 956
FreeBSD committer       | BSD since 4.3-tahoe    
Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

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