Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Fri Aug 27 13:43:10 EDT 2010

On Aug 27, 2010, at 9:49 AM, Steve Allen wrote:

> At the open meeting of US SG7 last week the participants responded that GPS time was a "pseudo time scale".

> Sometime around 2008-09 the United States Department of State gave approval for US WP7A to support the draft revision of ITU-R TF.460-6 which would abandon leap seconds in the international broadcast time scale while retaining the name UTC.

> "In the case of a redefinition of UTC without leap seconds, the CCTF would consider discussing the possibility of suppressing TAI, as it would remain parallel to the continuous UTC."

Assuming that the perfunctory yes-no-no-yes questionnaire achieves its goal of moving ITU-R TF.460-6 to a final vote, do we know what the rules are for that vote? Would a continuing objection from China or the UK block adoption?

One presumes that this list includes lurkers with voting authority who support or understand the position outlined above. Could someone actually in the loop explain the technical thinking here about the system that is being engineered?

On the political side, this appears to be an excellent example of how open meetings are used to close down discussion. I've seen the same phenomena with local city and school district governance.

Note that whatever system reengineering is envisaged, third parties retain numerous options when considering what technical steps to take to deal with the new alternate reality. All along it has been the process for pursuing the goals above that has been most fundamentally flawed. Consensus should have been assiduously pursued. The resulting proposal should have addressed the full range of issues.

Actual openness is preferable to an illusion of same. For one thing this entire exercise has served to bury timekeeping even deeper below the public's appreciation than previously. The media's coverage of the political wrangling has been entertaining and more extensive than one might have expected from such a wonky topic as the setting of international standards. But the shared essence of an enthusiasm for timekeeping in all its fascinating multidimensional details has been lost precisely because we've been at loggerheads for going on 11 years.

There have been 337,829,644 seconds (plus just two leap seconds) since 1999-12-13T16:00:16Z when this earlier message was sent:


That is a very long time to have been struggling to make the point that atomic time and mean solar time remain two distinct things. Abandoning leap seconds does not change this fact. It may seem that making UTC "continuous" and deprecating TAI and GPS will simplify some issues. It will most certainly complicate others. We should actually talk about the implications.

What options are there for organizing a meeting sometime in 2011 for discussing the full range of implications of this dramatic reordering of worldwide timekeeping? What organizations might sponsor? What funding agencies might be supportive? Attendees? Program? The focus should be broader than merely the technical audience here.


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