Time Itself Is About to Be Unhinged

The international body that controls decisions over how to count time may decouple atomic clocks from the movement of the Earth around the Sun. That could mean problems down the line.

What's the Latest Development?


The international body that controls decisions over how to count time may decouple atomic clocks from the Earth's rotation of the Sun by abolishing leap seconds. Currently, leap seconds are added to atomic clocks every so often, just before midnight, due to irregularities in the Earth's movement, making it one second before midnight twice. The International Telecommunication Union will convene this week in Geneva, Switzerland, to decide whether to make time an entirely abstract phenomenon.

What's the Big Idea?

Whether time remains tethered to physical events or not, some difficulties may be ahead. America's Global Positioning System satellites do not add leap seconds, nor do satellites being launched by Europe, China and Russia, causing worries that if the current system is maintained, navigation errors may occur. If leap seconds are abolished, astronomers may suffer as their computers rely on the turning of the stars to make calculations. In some 2,000 plus years, atomic clocks would say it is day when it is the middle of the night.

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

How KGB founder Iron Felix justified terror and mass executions

The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.

Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
  • The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
  • The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images
Mind & Brain

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

Keep reading Show less