Desperate pleas for 2016 to end already have become the internet’s favourite pastime. With Brexit, a Trump presidency, a shrunken Toblerone bar, and hundreds of celebrity deaths under our belt, I too think it’s high time 2016 came to an end.
However, for those of us counting down every remaining second of this horrible year, things could feel like they’re taking just that little bit longer than years past. That’s because, as if things weren’t already bad enough, scientists have decided that 2016 should have a whole extra second plonked onto the end of it.
Although it might seem like an extra second here and there shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference to anything, it turns out that there’s a pretty serious reason why 2016 must go on for quite so long.
Head over to the next page where all will be revealed. Go on, it’ll only take a second.
So what’s the reason for all the time-related trickery? Well, according to scientists, Earth’s rotation speed doesn’t exactly line up with the atomic clocks used by official timekeepers, so in order to correct the difference, 2016 is going to last a second longer than most other years. In fact, these “leap seconds” have been going on under our noses for years, and we didn’t even realise it.
On sporadic July 30ths and December 31sts over the past few years, one whole second has been added here and there to keep the atomic clocks in check. The last leap second occurred in June 2015 – do you remember feeling extra refreshed thanks to that one second of extra sleep? No? Didn’t think so. If you’re desperate to know, the last leap second before that one was added in June 2012.
A crowd gathered on July 1 in Tokyo last year at the very moment a leap second was added to the clock.
I know what you’re thinking: why do a few seconds here and there really matter? Well, it turns out that without leap seconds, the difference between 24 hours according to the atomic clocks and a true Earth day (defined as one full rotation) would start to grow. By 2100, we’d be off by a few minutes.
Things would continue to slowly creep out of control, to the point that by 2700, we’d be getting an extra half an hour of sleep in the morning. Doesn’t sound like quite as much of a problem when you put it like that, now does it? Cheers science.