[LEAPSECS] tinkering with time ?

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Sun Jan 30 19:45:44 EST 2011

On Jan 30, 2011, at 3:44 AM, Stephen Colebourne wrote:

> In other words, I flat out don't believe that the tinkering with time would stop simply because leap-seconds were stopped.

This is an insightful observation. What does the ITU believe will happen should they succeed? (Perhaps I should seal in an envelope my guess at PHK's response to this question :-)

If UTC is redefined, it is simple fact not speculation that astronomical software will need to accommodate. The cost will be very significant. It's ...alarming? ...amusing? to imagine the reaction of some of my colleagues when they realize the hit to their always tight budgets to deal with this artificial crisis. A *much* larger fuss will be made about this issue than has been made to date.

It doesn't take a crystal ball to predict an aggressive effort will be made to immediately overturn a yes vote on ITU-R TF.460-6. This is the risk of disdaining the need to build consensus in advance of calling a vote. Even if the vote isn't immediately overturned, the schedule to full implementation is *extremely* likely to be later extended (perhaps multiple times) to placate anxious stakeholders. It will not be only astronomers who find 5 years to be too short a planning horizon for vetting and updating their software/system portfolios. (Yes, yes - PHK will state the opposite. What will the stakeholders say?)

Calling any such new timescale something other than "UTC" (or not UT-anything, for that matter - since it no-way no-how would be a flavor of universal time), is the easiest way for the ITU to mitigate unintended project risks. Building a consensus in advance of decision-making is the best way to accelerate the schedule for adoption.

Whatever change is pursued, due diligence in system engineering requires planning for the results of the ITU's own actions.


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