[LEAPSECS] An example

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Tue Nov 2 19:19:06 EDT 2010

Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

> In message <C2ECBB7B-7810-448C-9538-E23F3B378B5D at noao.edu>, Rob Seaman writes:


>> 1) There is no pressing need to act now rather than 20 or 50 or

>> 500 years from now.


> There very much is: With each passing day, the probability that the next

> leap second will kill somebody because of sloppy engineering increases

> by a possibly non-trivial amount.

I thought you were Danish. With fear-mongering like that you gotta be American :-)

Let's imagine the motivation for this change was actually such. Wouldn't the best way to make such a case be to build a coherent planning document, a "proposal", outlining the issues? Similarly, it is an obvious assumption on the part of the ITU-R that no possible risks pertain to kicking the legs out from under the mean solar time underpinnings of civil timekeeping. Wouldn't it make sense - from the point of view of proponents of change - to assiduously study the issues from all angles before taking action?

It is certainly true that eradicating leap seconds will break astronomical systems unless we adapt. This is unlikely to kill anybody. But then, astronomy is not particularly dangerous. Will other systems break? Will there be broader economic or safety risks? How about a leap second inventory like the Y2K inventory?

Proponents of this change don't appear to believe risks exist. If not, shouldn't it be straightforward to demonstrate this?

>> 2) Consensus has not been reached on the nature of the problem,

>> let alone the solution(s) appropriate to the problem.


> You are correct in the sense that there is not _unanimous_ consent,

> but there is certainly a consensus that TF.460 and POSIX are in

> direct conflict with each other, and that they will have to be

> aligned to eachother somehow.

But "somehow" is not what is on the table. The astronomers in this forum have not been unwilling to consider alternate "somehows". It is the ITU-R which is unwilling to debate the issues.

Perhaps it seems that we've been fending off Poul-Henning and Warner all this time. Rather, they have been polite enough to engage in conversation. Remove the artificial crisis from the table and this will prove to be a more productive exercise.


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