A second look

Published 9:37 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Timekeepers must be an unusual breed of people. While most of us could care less whether our clocks are set properly, they are the ones that have to have everything perfectly aligned to the second.

I must confess that I, too, love to make sure all clocks are perfectly set. I have a clock in my apartment that updates electronically with an atomic clock, and all I love to have all my clocks set to the second where all of them say the same thing.

I’m not near as anal as I used to be about clocks, partly because I haven’t worn a watch in a couple of years. I still think it’s impressive when you’re in an old-fashioned clock shop right at the top of the hour. Imagine every clock in the store chiming. Some might think that’s annoying, but that’s music to my ears.

However, I think some timekeepers are taking their jobs too seriously. On Monday, it was announced that an “international consortium of timekeepers” decided to add a second to the year. Specifically, the second will be added at 6:59:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. That means we will actually have a 6:59:60 p.m. Yep, you got it — a 61-second minute.

In the realm of timekeepers, this calls for a celebration. At the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, they’re going to be watching it closely.

“We watch the clock and make sure nothing breaks,” Chester said. “It’s an early New Year’s celebration.”

The reason given by the timekeepers for adding the extra second is Earth’s slowing rotation. So to keep the atomic clocks in sync with our planet’s rotation, we have to add leap seconds.

Just in case you wanted to know, 2008 will now be the longest year since 1992 when we also had a leap day and a leap second. Some major events that happened in 1992 included Alabama winning a national championship, Democrat Bill Clinton beating incumbent President George Bush for the presidency, and Jay Leno becoming host of “The Tonight Show.”

In 2008, we have Alabama having an undefeated regular season. Democrat Barack Obama will replace two-term President George W. Bush. Leno is now about to give up his gig with “The Tonight Show” and hand it over to Conan O’Brien.

Wow! I’m not really sure what that means, but it probably means about as much as a leap second does.

– Brent Maze is the managing editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Wednesday. He can be reached at brent.maze@clantonadvertiser.com.