Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's About Time

It's been said that we never have enough time, but that we have all the time there is. This is true, at least at this time, and so it's time for me to take some time and write about ... time.

There are two time topics to tell today ... however alliteratively.

The first one comes from my blog fodder file from a year or so ago, and tells of the construction of the world's largest clock in, of all places, Saudi Arabia (which, by the way, is still in a strong third place in the Ass Clown of the Year balloting). It seems that the Saudis are irritated that the standard for world time is the prime meridian running through Greenwich, England, and believe that time should be measured from their little piece of sandy wasteland. The Saudi Binladen Group (yes, owned by the family of the fellow now sleeping with the fishes) is building what is billed as the world's largest clock, with four 151-foot faces illuminated by 2 million LED lights and covered with 98 million pieces of mosaic glass. It will be visible for 16 miles and stand 820 feet tall. This enormous clock, which will also shoot beams of light high into the sky, will show Arabia Standard Time, which is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

This enormous clock, in addition to giving the Saudis something else on which to throw away all that money we pay them for oil, will allow ultra-pious Wahhabis to know to the second what time the next public flogging or amputation of hands will be carried out. This is even meaner than Greenwich time.

The other time story deals with the problem of leap seconds. Next month, the member states of the International Telecommunications Union decide whether to change the world's standard of time. Today, coordinated universal time (UTC) is the official scale used all over the world for time coordination (at least, until the Saudis finish their megaclock). The UTC standard was adopted in 1972 and was based on atomic clocks (which measure time according to the vibration rates of atoms); previously, everyone had used astronomical time, which is based on the Earth's rate of rotation. Unfortunately, the atomic time scale and the astronomical one gradually slip out of sync, requiring occasional additions of one-second corrections. This worked fine for a while, but today, most systems we use for telecommunications - and particularly satellite navigation and timing systems like GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou tend to be confused by these "leap seconds." So in January the ITU will vote on dropping the leap second.

Why should you care? Well, wouldn't you want to know - with the greatest possible degree of accuracy - the exact time at which Congress actually manages to do something? Such a moment would certainly be of great importance to historians and would need to be precisely documented. We can't have any pesky "leap seconds" interfering with the ability to know what time the Congressional Clown Show's latest act begins, can we?

Well, enough about time. It's time to get dressed, take Nessa for a walk, and head off to work. After all, I need to be there on time. And that would be Eastern Daylight Time, which is six hours after GMT, nine hours after Arabian Standard Time, and just way too darned early in any case.

Have a good day. More timely thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

Wow! Just what the world needs: a superduper clock in the desert running on Arabian Standard Time. Somehow, it's rendolent of the French Revolutionary Calendar. And, of course, the hyperthyroid clock will be in impeccable taste.

Would it be presumptuous of me to suggest a Mickey Mouse clock dial?

I hope the walk, at any rate, will be nice! But maybe the day will pick up too.

Bilbo said...

Angelique - I think the Mickey Mouse clock dial would be perfect on the Old Post Office tower here in Washington, and even better if it could be installed somewhere in the capitol!

allenwoodhaven said...

In unrelated news, I read today that Mitt Romney was at a campaign event where he asked the all important question "Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?" and then said I know you aren't and then actually smiled!

He probably smiled because he thinks this is a good reason to not vote for Obama and thus consider voting for him. As for me, I think it's terrible that he'd smile since he thinks "you're not better off". (He himself is no doubt better off finacially though perhaps not better off in the polls.) Shouldn't he WANT his fellow Americans to be better off? And who is to blame if we're not better off? I'd say that it's the GOP's fault for being so obstructionist.

That's 2 more votes for the GOP as ass clown of the year. (Romney earning one and the GOP one as well.)

At least I can vote for ass clown of the year to help me "be better off"...

Mike said...

Watch out here. You getting into technical stuff. Don't go blogging over me.

Duckbutt said...

Do the Arabians not have the ability to understand the concept of cultural inertia? Considering how resistant they are to change, you would think that they would grasp that arbitrarily changing the prime meridian would be met with resistance.

And who wants to take cues from a cultural backwater?