Today at 9:59am, we get a minute that is 61 seconds long. This is a pretty rare occurrence, but why is it happening — and perhaps more importantly, what are the best ways to take advantage of all that extra free time?
Time is traditionally measured so that 12:00pm — midday — is when the Sun is at its highest point overhead. But these days we measure time with atomic clocks, rather than by squinting up at the sky.
The problem is, that while our measurement of time is super accurate, the rotation of the Earth changes over time — mostly slowing from gravitational interactions with the Moon.
Other effects, such as the slow rebounding of tectonic plates after the last ice age, can change the distribution of mass, which itself can change the Earth’s rotational speed.
Amazingly enough, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was so powerful that it sped up the Earth’s rotation by 3 microseconds. Even humans can change the rotation period — it’s estimated that the 42 billion tons of water in China's Three Gorges dam will increase the length of the day by 0.06 microseconds.
So every now and then an extra second needs to be slotted into the day to keep time accurate. The last leap second was in 2012, and there have been 25 since the correction system was implemented in 1972.
Since computers rely on to-the-second accuracy, the leap second has caused problems in the past — such as crashed websites (our fingers are crossed — Ed). Hopefully this time everyone has their code up to scratch. Read more about the whole issue here.
Perhaps more importantly though, today we all get one extra second. Here are our top ideas for things to do with the free time.
Do you have some better ideas? Tell us in the comments below.
Our ideas for a productive use of today's leap second:
- Watch 1/40800th of the Extended Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
- Take a power nap.
- See how many times you can blink.
- The world's shortest toilet break.
- Argue with your boss you should be paid for an extra second.
- Brace for the inevitable apocalypse.
- Adjust your old grandfather clock.
- Actually leap in the air for one second. You will need to jump 121 cm high!
- Go speed dating.
- Watch your computer clock do weird things.
- Give someone a high five.
- Brush one tooth.
- Gulp down a snack.
- Get in a quick workout.
- Give your pet an extra pat.
- Read more Gizmodo.
- Leave a comment below.