Farewell to the leap second

It’s not every day that decisions are made that affect the passage of time itself, but here we are. 

What happened: The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM, a group that quite literally decides what time it is) voted to abolish the leap second, until at least 2135.

What even is that, you ask?

Catch-up: The leap second is a teeny version of a leap year. Roughly every 21 months, the BIPM tacks on an extra second to the year to account for a slowdown of the Earth’s rotation.

Why it matters: Unlike a leap year, it’s difficult for researchers to predict when a leap second is needed, which is a big pain for technology that relies on ultra-precise timekeeping, like navigational satellites, telecoms networks, and financial payments platforms.

  • In the past, companies like Reddit, Cloudflare, LinkedIn, and even Qantas Airlines have all gone down or lost services because of the pesky second-adding practice.

  • Companies and governments have long advocated for the leap second’s death. Meta went so far as to post a tirade against it, co-singed by Microsoft and Amazon. 

Yes, but: The change won’t come until 2035, once a new system can be rolled out to take its place. One suggestion has been to let all the leap seconds add up to a leap minute, then arrange a date where time would essentially stop for sixty seconds to let the Earth catch up.