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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 18 January, 2019

We're getting an extra second this year, but don't jump for joy just yet...

Some computer systems might have a bad reaction to the leap second.

Image: stockerre via Flickr/Creative Commons

FRENCH TIME LORDS will provide us with a whole extra second in June this year.

But before you get too excited, be warned – it could make computer systems go a little bit haywire.

Scientists carry out this adjustment every few years because the Earth’s rotation is getting gradually slower. Ever since 1972, a second has occasionally been added to super-accurate atomic clocks to accommodate for this.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, based in Paris, have decided this will take place on June 30, meaning that at 11.59, clocks will count up to 60 seconds past the minute.

Computers don’t like this, because they use atomic clocks to make sure their time is right. The extra second causes a bit of confusion.

In 2012, the extra second brought down websites like LinkedIn, Reddit, Gawker, and Four Square, according to Buzzfeed, due to the affect it had on systems like Java and Linux.

Some were already prepared.

Gizmodo notes that Google uses something called a Leap Smear. Every time a server is updated, a couple of milliseconds are added to the system’s time, meaning that by the time the big day comes around the clock is already at the correct new time.

The Telegraph reports that there is opposition to introducing the leap second, with some arguing that it could disrupt precision systems required for financial transactions and transport.

Basically, it’s going to be like Y2K all over again. Prepare the for the apocalypse.

Read: Frances Fitzgerald isn’t as much craic as Alan Shatter when it comes to being ‘Minister for Time’ >

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Nicky Ryan

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