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We modern humans are always looking for a little more time, and 002017 starts off with a slight delay for us to enjoy.
Inhabitants of Earth can luxuriate in an extra moment this New Year’s Eve thanks to Earth’s variable movements. A leap second is being added to all clocks on December 31st at 23:59:60 UTC. This happens at 6:59:60pm in New York City. This little second will be helping keep us in sync with the sun, for all time to come.
What we like most about this insertion of “time” is how directly it illustrates the human-constructed nature of clock-time (which we’ve been calling “Human Standardized Time”) itself. It’s a nice reminder that clock time is something humans constructed and made up for our own time-keeping purposes.
We “need” to add a leap second because the highly mechanized, precise time keeping methods we’ve created for the sake of global communications don’t sense Earth’s varying speeds. Which means if Earth’s current rate of change rotation stayed the same and we didn’t add a second to our clocks every few years, a few millennia from now (5000 years, to be exact), our clocks would be out of sync with the sun by an hour. We need this little second to maintain a meaningful connection to the vastness of the astronomical environment we evolved in and live by (sun “rising” and “setting” etc.) even if we often forget these material realities and the fact that they aren’t actually about us at all.
From a human perspective situated on Earth, time “is” movement through space around the sun, galaxy, and in its own rotation. These movements change speed. Earth “days” (rotations) are actually slowing down due to the force of ocean tides. The Earth’s rotation speed also can change due to the distribution of mass in the Earth’s molten outer core, the movement of large masses of ice near the poles, and major earthquakes. Variation is common in Earth’s movements and timings.
If you happen to be one of the brave few who are practicing living time differently this year (everyone is welcome to join in on the fun, anytime) through our Living Deep Time Calendar Year 00001 project, this could be an appropriate week to practice “the times of the Leap Second.” You might want to spend a few days sensing how both the idea, and the human-constructed reality of a single second of clock time ramifies through the first few days of your new year — and how this second helps Human Standardized Time to maintain its human-Earth connection throughout our next circuit around the sun.
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