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2016 Will Be Longer Because Of A Leap Second
An extra second will be added to 2016, and not everyone is happy about it (CCSS Level: Grade 6, Words: 430)
Dec 29, 2016 Science & Technology

You might think that adding a single second to 2016 would be no big deal. In fact most people will not even notice it. However the world's computers and phones are likely to find it a very big deal indeed. They will have to know how to add the extra time to their clocks, and this can cause all kinds of problems.

The world keeps track of time via highly accurate computers with quartz clocks, which keep the most accurate time that we know of. This is called Coordinated Universal Time or UTC. Those reference clocks tell a set of computers what time it is every second. Every now and then another set of computers asks these reference computers what time it is. These computers then tell the next set of computers what time it is, and so on and so on until the correct time is known to all the computers on the internet. Your computer checks UTC using this network time, even though you don't even notice it.

Now we have to add extra time to certain years, because the Earth's rate of spin is actually slowing down. Every few years we need another second, and since 1960 there have been 26 leap seconds added. If we didn't do this, eventually midday would occur at night! So the leap second keeps us in time with the Sun. At 11:59:59 pm on New Year's Eve, instructions will go out to add another second to UTC.

While this is pretty easy for us humans to cope with, computers have real trouble with this instruction. They are being asked to make a 61-second minute, which to a logical computer makes no sense at all. Some servers may even think that time is running backward, which could cause them to crash.

Back in 2012, some popular web sites went down for a period of time, which some said was caused by that year's leap second. Thankfully one technology company has created its own "long seconds" to make sure machines are able to handle the leap second. They have called it "smeared time". They plan to stretch-out 20 hours' worth of seconds, instead of just adding a single second on December 31st. Each of these 72,000 stretched seconds will be around 0.0014 per cent longer than a standard second - hence the "smeared time" title.

So when you raise your glass at midnight on December 31st, watch for the clock changing to 11:59:60, and toast the extra second. But keep your fingers crossed that computers around the world cope with the change.

A leap second needs to be added to 2016 because…
time itself is slowing down
the Earth's spin is slowing
clocks cannot keep accurate time
computers control all clocks
In the article, what does the acronym UTC stand for?
Universal Time Code
Universal Time Constant
United Technologies Corporation
Coordinated Universal Time
How many hours are 72,000 seconds?
24 hours
One day
0.0014 hours
20 hours
As used in the article, what does "smeared" mean?
spread out
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correct in all details, exact



real, in fact






in addition to



the powdery residue left after the burning of a substance or emitted by a volcano



to deal with something difficult



bring into being, make



in the end, after a period of time



directions or orders



a short piece of a canal in which the water level can be raised or lowered/a fastening (as for a door) operated by a key or a combination



the middle of the day; noon



become aware of



happen; take place



something that might be harmful, needing to be solved



something not right, harmful


rate of spin

how many turns in a period of time

phrase.    旋转速率


use of a source of information



the normal amount



lengthened, made longer or straighter



machinery developed from scientific knowledge