This New Year’s Eve you might have to start the countdown at 11. That’s because, as New Scientist reports, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) have tacked one extra second onto 2016 to make sure clocks worldwide are in sync with changes in the Earth’s rotation.
Nearly half a minute has been added in such “leap seconds” since 1972.
The clocks used to establish Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) are atom clocks, which use microwaves released by molecules to keep their ticks in time. While, according to New Scientist, a day should be 864000 of these ticks, the Earth’s rotation is a little less precise. Its affected by things like gravitation pull and the movement of the planet’s core.
Because leap seconds can mess with computer systems, many people have suggested they be done away with. However, without leap seconds by the year 2100 our clocks would be between two and three minutes out of sync with the sun.
Because 2016 is already a leap year, you’ll have an extra 24 hours and one second this year. How will you spend it? Might we suggest blinking.