Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year...no, wait, now!



Imbolc (Groundhog's Day in polite company) is less than 6 weeks away. The year is defined by the cyclical journey of our sun. Ptolemy makes sense if you're paying attention.

Tomorrow night, the official timekeepers will add a second to the year.

I bet some science teachers will tell their classes about it when they return, and I bet more than a few of them will get the reasons wrong.

Yes, the Earth's orbit is slowing down, but not so much that we have to add 24 seconds in 35 years. The International Earth Rotation Service has done this 23 times before since 1972.

Why?

Because we screwed up--atomic time defines a day a few milliseconds off. The Earth does indeed change its speed--in the 1990's it mysteriously sped up for a bit, so fewer leap seconds were needed.

And, yep, it will ultimately slow down--but it's not slowing down 24 seconds every 35 years.


And Imbolc? It will always fall halfway between winter solstice and the vernal equinox--you don't need an atomic watch to figure it out.


Isn't the Int'l Earth Rotation Service a fantastic name? Need your oil changed, your tires rotated? Call us!

1 comment:

Kate Tabor said...

Hello Doyle -
Imbolc is close to my heart in so many ways, chief among these are the birth of my twins almost 12 years ago but also the February thaw that invariably accompanies the arrival of this spoke on the wheel of the year.

Our weather roller-coaster this year has been a spectacular ride: bone chilling cold, piles of snow, and then the 60° day with inches of rain that washes away the salt and leaves behind icebergs where the big piles were.

The blue sky today is not what I anticipate in Illinois on a late December day. Our skies are usually gray-white. But the sun. The sun gives me hope that we will make it to Imbolc and that the sun will stop teasing us. Even if that groundhog has to see his shadow one second later.