Meta takes the field on the world reference time: "No more changes"

The UTC system, used for computer science and science, is periodically corrected due to the slowdown of the Earth: 27 changes made in 50 years. But for Facebook's parent company, the costs outweigh the benefits

11 Aug 2022

The Earth is slowing down, albeit imperceptibly, and for this reason the ultra-accurate world reference time used for computer and scientific systems is periodically corrected. As many as 27 changes in just 50 years: too many, communicates in a blogpost Meta, the company that owns Facebook , because they create great computer problems every time and the costs outweigh the benefits.

The day is defined as the time that our planet takes to complete a rotation, a movement that we measure on average in 86,400 seconds, or 24 hours, but that in hindsight is never so precise regular. In fact, due to many factors – from the loss of ice, to earthquakes or tides, to changes in the volume of the seas – the rotation of our planet fluctuates continuously but in general it is noted that it is gradually slowing down. Last June was recorded the shortest day ever, about 1.59 milliseconds less, but overall the length of the days is growing by about 2.3 milliseconds every hundred years.

The remedy in the "intercalary seconds"

Changes imperceptible for everyone but not for the scientific instruments of the highest precision and for many computer systems that need to work super accurate time measurements, so much so that they have forced to modify the universal time signal Utc as many as 27 times in 50 years introducing 'intercalary seconds', changes in reality of very small fractions of a second.

"A solution – explain Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi, researchers at Meta – that was acceptable in 1972". But not anymore now. According to Meta managers, each change brings with it very complex problems and can expose computer systems to serious dangers so much so that it causes more harm than good. For this reason, "we support the stop to further introductions of intercalary seconds for at least the next thousand years".