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'Slow' cycling in the Guardian

Peter Walker of the Guardian muses about the journey vs. the destination, via bicycle, in this recent blog post.

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Leap second decision put on hold

The International Telecommunication Union recently postponed a decision on whether to do away with the leap second -- which means, by default, it will remain until at least 2015.


The leap second is artificially inserted into the stream of time every now and then to account for the slowdown of the earth's rotation. Like the leap year, this system speaks to a fundamental clumsiness inherent to our system of timekeeping -- however precise it may seem on a day-to-day basis.


Felicitas Arias, director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is among those arguing for the abolition of the leap second, as she explains in this interview from December. But scientists could not agree at the ITU's recent summit, so the decision got put off.


"We are using a system that breaks time," Arias argues. "The quality of time is continuity." 


True, but it is hard to accept Arias' unwillingness to come up with an alternate system, instead leaving it to future generat…

Book review: "The Greenwich Time Lady"

From PopMatters.com:

With its brusque opening lines ("What time is it? It’s a simple question and this book looks at some of the ways we have tried to answer it over the last couple of hundred years"), Ruth Belville: The Greenwich Time Lady plunges the reader headlong into a densely packed gem of a history—one that author David Rooney, curator of timekeeping at the British Royal Observatory, is uniquely qualified to tell.

The book’s eponymous heroine was the last in a short line of Belvilles who made their living in a unique manner: they literally brought time itself from the Greenwich Royal Observatory to a London subscriber base that included shopkeepers, shipping firms and clockmakers. Through a tenuous and complex arrangement with the observatory’s Astronomer General, the Belvilles were granted weekly entry to the observatory, where a clerk would adjust their steadfast watch (nicknamed “Arnold” after its maker, John Arnold) to the correct time and provide a certificate den…