[LEAPSECS] Back to Basics

ashtongj ashtongj at comcast.net
Wed Nov 3 13:46:02 EDT 2010

Getting back to basics is good, but my view is different from Mr.

The world of measurements is effectively divided into the realms of
discussion, publication, and research, versus the realm of commerce. In
the first realm, you can do whatever you want (if you live in a place
where freedom of speech and the press is respected). In the second
realm, commerce, the government makes you do what the government
considers right, and if you resist strongly enough, the government will
kill you.

As an example, if I run a laundromat and I put up signs that say my
dryers will run for 10 minutes if you put a U.S. quarter into the slot,
but the dryer only runs for 9 minutes and 30 seconds, the inspectors
from the department of agriculture can come into my laundromat, seize
the dryer, and truck it away. If I throw the inspectors out the door,
they will call the police. If I point a gun at the police when they show
up to assist the inspectors, the police will kill me.

Commerce often involves contracts, and many of the terms of contracts
are defined by law or custom, in the absence of specific provisions to
the contrary. In the absence of contrary provisions, times and dates in
contracts are reckoned according to the civil time in effect at the
appropriate place, if the appropriate place can be determined. But I
could write a contract specifying UTC and I strongly suspect it would be

The law in the US sets up time zones based on UTC, and contains the

Coordinated Universal Time Defined.--In this section, the
term `Coordinated Universal Time' means the time scale maintained
through the General Conference of Weights and Measures
and interpreted or modified for the United States by the Secretary
of Commerce in coordination with the Secretary of the Navy.

( See

So the ITU cannot directly discontinue leap seconds for the US, only the
CGPM can do that, and only if the Secretaries of Commerce and the Navy
deem that the change has occurred and decide not to modify the CGPM

I suspect the structure will be similar in other countries.

Gerry Ashton

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