Just a second

There might be more to a second than a second.

In the course of a day, on which our standard of time is based, the planet wobbles a bit. So some days are longer or shorter than others.

The atomic clock keeps a more accurate record of the time, but that may soon be obsolete, the journal Nature Communications reports, with the advent of the optical lattice clock.

“It could redefine what a second is,” the BBC says.

It still has its flaws — it loses one second every 300 million years — but it’s still more accurate than the atomic clock, which apparently loses one every 100 million years.

Of course the beauty of a little article like this isn’t the assertion itself, but the comments from people to try to explain it.

Time is based on the turning of our earth. That is how a second is defined.


If the earth doesn’t behaviour in a linear fashion, neither does our concept of time. Taking the unit of a second and modelling it so it is a linear time unit and not a fraction of a day renders it meaningless. Its no longer a second because it doesn’t match the earth any more. Midday should be at midday

But there is nothing that can’t be debated online, including whether we’re really talking about time here at all.

Of course even with this method, we are not really measuring time itself. By detecting atomic vibrations we are measuring distances, not time.

Don’t see the use for it? Got a mobile phone? Atomic clocks allow the simultaneous transmission of thousands of calls down the same wire by constantly flicking from one call to another, thousands of times a second. Also helped redefine the metre…

And, because it’s the Internet, a flame war broke out over whether the revelation has any practical purpose.

This is talking about an error of 0.3 peta-seconds per second. In 0.3 peta seconds, *light* travels about 90 nanometres in a vacuum. Timing of this accuracy is only useful for ‘scientific’ purposes not for real life…

Which led to the timeless conclusion.

The majority of comments here are terrifying. The UK has become a country inhabited by idiots and morons. I am delighted to say that I left the place for good eleven years ago and both my children have followed my example. So sit there in front of your soap operas and “talent” contests and rot.