It’s one small step for accountants, but one giant leap for official timekeepers, markets traders, rocket scientists and computer boffins around the nation, as the ending financial year gains a crucial extra second on Tuesday to recalibrate and catch-up with the flow of time.
Perhaps concerned that Australians might blink and miss the landmark, the Federal Government has even gone to the extent of holding a special media event to celebrate the brief addition of a ‘leap second‘ to the nation’s most official clocks during the very last minute of 30th June.
Although brief, it’s a chronological curiosity that will result in Australia’s official atomic clock showing 23:59:60 as well as 00:00:00. There will also be 61 seconds in the minute, providing accountants more time to complete their year end reports and allowing all of us to sleep in.
It may appear insignificant, but for machines that rely on finely tuned and super-accurate links to official clocks, a mere second can make a world of difference. Given that speed-obsessed operators of automated high frequency financial trading systems rely on margins as small as hundredths and even thousandths of a second to make algorithmic decisions to buy and sell, it’s not hard to why those punting hundreds of millions on world bourses are carefully watching Australia’s official clock.
The same goes for space industries where rocket speeds mean that the tiniest difference in time can translate to potentially critical issues for paylodes like satellites.
Australia’s equivalent of Greenwich, the National Measurement Institute in the leafy Sydney suburb of West Lindfield, is taking the momentary extension of the financial most seriously and will even officially mark the occasion at 9:30am on 1st July with an official visit Karen Andrews, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane to help Australia’s measurement boffins strut their stuff.
But it least the NMI tells us why the leap second is needed. “Scientists responsible for Australia’s atomic clocks will add an extra leap second into the clocks, keeping Australia’s time standard consistent with the rest of the world.
“Leap seconds are introduced in unison around the world to keep Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) aligned to the earth’s variable rotation. They occur at irregular intervals—the last one was in 2012. We rely on accurate time, particularly in financial markets, telecommunications, astronomy and navigation.”
The government is also keen for the event to be documented for posterity, enticing the media thoughy an opportunity to snap photos of Australia’s atomic clocks before, during and after the leap second is added.”
But it hasn’t happened yet, so we are doing it for you. Over the few seconds straddling the leap second year, Australia’s digital clocks will look like this:
So don’t blame us if you’re late for an appointment this week. Look before you leap.
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