If you can stay up until close to midnight tonight, you’ll get to tell your grandchildren about the time you stayed up until midnight for no good reason.
At 11:59:59, the world will add one second to time. (update: It’ll be 11:59:59 UTC, so you only actually have to stay up until 7pm to experience the thrill)
Where does that one second come from? It comes from nowhere. It’s merely created for the purpose of keeping things accurate. That’s the cool thing about time: Even though we’re all given only a limited amount of time, we can just make more when it suits our fancy.
And it suits our fancy today because the earth doesn’t take exactly 24 hours to make one complete revolution. So tonight, “they” — the keepers of time — will add a second to the day, the 27th time they’ve done that since the Nixon administration, which — as an aside — seemed at the time like it would never end.
We wouldn’t need to do this, Vox notes, had the keepers of time not switched to the universal time code (UTC) in 1967, which uses an “atomic clock.” “The basis of their seconds is the frequency at which electrons surrounding an atom jump from one energy level to another,” it notes.
A “leap second” is added whenever the difference between the time we think it is, is more than 0.9 seconds off the time it really is, as measured by observations of astronomers who measure these things “by looking at distant quasars in the sky/universe.” And when we look at anything in space, we’re looking back in time.
Let’s mess with your head some more. By adding a second — and 27 seconds since we started adding time — we’re taking time off our lives. Our bodies, of course, couldn’t possibly care less what time it is, so we’re now going to live one second less than we otherwise would have, at least according to what time it is.