The Earth is spinning faster and faster, Metas warning: “Possible devastating effects on computer systems”

The Earth is spinning faster and faster, Metas warning: “Possible devastating effects on computer systems”

Engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi wrote it in a blog post, concerned about the possible (and unprecedented) introduction of a negative leap second to keep up with the average sunny day

Last June 29th humanity lived the shorter day since it’s been tracked (very accurately) thanks to atomic clocks – so since the 1960s – but it’s totally unlikely anyone has noticed. The reason is easy to say: it has just struck midnight 1.59 milliseconds ahead compared to the “canonical” 24 hours (or 86,400 seconds). Less than a blink of an eye. It seems to be a trifle, instead it is an emblematic event of theacceleration of the Earth’s rotation observed since 2016. It is no coincidence that the second place in the table was won less than a month later on July 26 (1.50 milliseconds too early). Subtle variations, of course, but they risk causing them in the long run very serious impact on digital devices.

The possible causes of the phenomenon

The reason for such an increase in speed is not yet clear even to scientists. What is certain is that around 1.4 billion years ago our planet busy less than 19 hours to make a full turn. Then he has slowed by about 74,000 milliseconds per yearuntil the current 24 is reached. Which event then underlies the trend reversal? There are likely several concomitant factors – from Niña to the influence of the moon on the tides, from the melting of the ice caps to the movements of the inner core – but the main hypothesis is that it plays a leading role “Chandler Wiggles” (“Chandler oscillation”), a term denoting the small oscillations that have the effect due to the imperfect sphericity of the earth cyclic shift of the global axis of rotation 3-4 meters from the North Pole with a period of 433 days.

The leap seconds

In addition to analyzing the causes, it shows that the long-term continuation of the trend can lead to necessity “Remove” a second from our clocks, in a mirror image of what was happening periodically up until six years ago when the Earth’s rotation slowed. In technical jargon we speak of “leap seconds»: So far they have been accepted in history 27 – the first in 1972, the last in 2016 -, all positive, so additionally. In other words, on the dates set, hands marked 23:59:60 before moving on to the next day (it happened 11 times between June 30th and July 1st, 16 times between December 31st and January 1st). In the future, however, to align Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) with the mean solar day You may need to use the reverse processtriggering midnight just after 23:59:58.

Meta’s alarm clock

Although it is currently a rather premature contingency, the hypothesis of the introduction of a negative leap second has already wreaked havoc in the offices of Half, parent company of Facebook and Instagram. Indeed, in a blog post published on July 25, the Menlo Park engineers did Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi have indicated that they want to work for “Stop future introduction of leap seconds” for “at least the next thousand years”. “As a sector – they wrote -, We encounter problems every time a leap second is introduced. And since it is such a rare event, it devastates the community every time it happens ». Consequently, “since the effect of a negative leap second has never been widely tested, this could have a devastating effect on software based on timers or scheduling tools. And in any case, every leap second is one a great source of pain for those who manage hardware infrastructures“. Indeed, a prospect worthy of the Millennium Bug, the computer bug that was rumored to be causing computer systems around the world to spin on January 1st, 2000. Let’s just hope it’s also in Case a false alarmbut judging by who created it, it is desirable that insiders hold it in high esteem.

August 10th