Wednesday 23 July, 2014

Britain’s GMT not accurate enough for timekeeping, claim French scientists

Published On: Mon, Oct 3rd, 2011 | Telecommunications | By BioNews

Scientists have claimed that worldwide time couldn’t be based on Britain’s Greenwich Mean Time anymore because it’s not quite accurate enough.

It has been the way the world measures time for almost 130 years, but this new claim means it could soon be consigned to the history books.

And to add insult to injury, the scientists behind the move hail from France – which failed in a rival bid for the world to run on Paris Mean Time when GMT was first agreed, The Daily Mail reported.

They have pushed for a plan, which would see worldwide time based on atomic clocks, without reference to the sun’s journey across the zero-degree meridian that runs through Greenwich Park in London.

This method was introduced in 1884. But the Earth rotates at slightly varying rates, so the duration of each day can be fractionally different. To compensate, in 1972 scientists introduced a new form of GMT – Co-ordinated Universal Time.

It uses highly accurate atomic clocks, but is occasionally corrected by adding ‘leap seconds’ to keep it in tune with the Earth’s rotational time, measured at Greenwich.

In the modern world of the internet and satellite-based GPS systems, however, greater accuracy is required than ever.

And every time leap seconds are added to atomic clocks and computer networks around the world, there is the risk of a small mistake that could cause havoc.

So the French-based International Bureau of Weights and Measures claims worldwide time should be based entirely on atomic clocks.

Advocates admit this means it would soon get out of kilter with variations in the rotation of the Earth, but say it could be realigned by adding a leap minute every 50 years – leaving less room for error.

“Britain has lodged the main objections but they are based on tradition, not science,” said the BIPM’s Elisa Felicitas Arias.

“It is very ironic since it was Britain that actually invented the atomic clock. But we need a modern system for timekeeping and since the definition of GMT is based on the Earth’s rotation then GMT will become mainly historical,” she added.

A vote on the issue will be held in January at the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva.

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