Here’s Why 2016’s “Leap Second” Really Matters

What will you do with all that extra time?

A lot can happen in a second: According to New Scientist, 2.3 million emails are sent, more than 48,000 Google searches are performed in that fraction of time, and Warren Buffet will make an extra $402.

While that blip may feel like nothing, keeping our collective seconds in sync with the Earth’s rotation is essential for us to literally be on time. Which explains why in 2016, the world will be “gifted” a leap second.

According to the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, the atomic clock and the observed rotation of the Earth are once again slightly off. The clock, as PC Magazine reports, uses cesium atoms to determine the exact length of a second. The atomic clock will keep ticking on time for at least 300 million years.

Science writer Dan Falk, who wrote the 2008 book In Search of Time, tells National Geographic,“If you don’t insert a leap second, eventually time based on those atomic clocks will be out of whack with solar time. It’s not a perfect solution. But Aristotle and Heraclitus were arguing about [time] 2,500 years ago, and we’re still arguing about it.”

What would happen if we didn’t observe this extra nugget of time? According to National Geographic, by 2100 we’d be off the atomic clock by a few minutes. By 2700, we’d have an extra half hour each day.

So how is this slowing of the Earth happening? On June 30, 2015, when the last leap second occurred, Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told

"The moon is slowing us down. It's tugging on us. If it ultimately succeeds at this, Earth's rotation will be as slow as the lunar month, and we will always show the same face to one another in what is called a 'double tidal lock… But if you do the math, it will take longer than the lifespan of the sun for the moon to succeed at this. So it's not something you should worry about at this point." also notes, along with the moon, other factors including the “sloshing of the planet's molten core, the rolling of the oceans, the melting of polar ice,” all effect our solar gravity.

And while a mere second to get things done and stay on atomic time sounds great in theory, in practice it can really screw things up. As The Verge reports, leap seconds can wreak havoc on computer systems that were not built to account for extra time. The Verge adds, some people are even calling for an end to the leap second, however, “In November, representatives at the World Radiocommunications Conference in Geneva decided to postpone a decision on whether to keep leap seconds to 2023.”

According to the U.S. Navy, there have been 27 positive leap seconds since 1972, when the very first leap second occurred to help us all stay on time. So, what will you do with your extra second on Earth?

via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less