We are sure that all of our readers are avidly following the debate over whether to eliminate the leap second from Universal Time Coordinated. Such a decision will have massive, far ranging effects and should not be taken lightly.
But of course, we here at GoobNet take everything lightly. Instead of an in depth examination of the issue, the advantages and disadvantages of making a change, and a rational conclusion that is demonstrably the best solution given the situation, we will instead do what most news sources do: talk to people who are probably not qualified to make decisions on the subject.
We find Claude, 51, on the Avinguda Diagonal. We ask him whether leap seconds should be abolished.
“No,” he says. “The proposal to get rid of them and put in a leap hour is ridiculous.”
But is there really a difference between adding a second every year or two and adding an hour every century or two?
“Yes, there is,” he answers. “The first is a real solution to a real problem. The second is a copout wherein we ignore our problems and leave them for future generations. Just like global warming. Are we to take serious action, or are we merely to mortgage our future yet again?”
Wendy and Willi, both 19, are lying on towels on City Beach. We ask them what they think about the leap second debate.
They do not respond.
We ask them again.
They do not respond.
We shake Willi.
She shrieks in surprise. Wendy leaps up and, in a lightning quick maneuver, points a tiny spray container at us.
We tell them that we just want to ask them about leap seconds.
“Yeah, right,” Wendy snaps. “What’s your game, really?”
No, really, we want to ask them about leap seconds.
“Don’t think I won’t use this on you,” Wendy warns.
Willi adds, “She would, too. She’s mad.”
Mad at whom?
“Right now, you,” Wendy scowls.
Willi says, “Well, actually, I meant mad as in crazy.”
“Well, right now, I’m both kinds of mad. Come on, mate. Tell us what you really want. I will use this.”
What is it?
“Mace,” Willi says.
“Don’t tell them,” Wendy hisses at her.
“What?” Willi asks. “Nothing wrong with carrying mace around. A strong independent woman like you should.”
We again insist that we just want to know what they think about leap seconds.
“What’s this for?” Wendy asks.
We tell them that it is for a website.
“Which one?” Wendy asks.
We tell them.
“GoobNet? Sounds made up to me,” Wendy says, making another scowl.
“Have you got some ID you could show her?” Willi asks.
We reach for our GoobNet badges.
“Slowly,” Wendy cautions.
We reach for our GoobNet badges slowly.
Willi looks at them and then retrieves her telephone.
We repeat the address to her, and she loads the page.
“‘Join the Joyous Metro Conquerors’?” Willi asks. “What the fuck does that mean?”
We explain that it was the title of last week’s Whine.
“Last week’s what?”
We explain the concept of the Weekly Whine and that we are seeking their opinions for this week’s edition.
“What’s it about?” Wendy asks Willi.
“The Moscow Metro,” Willi says.
“You don’t sound Russian,” Wendy says.
We explain that we are not.
“Then why are you writing about it?”
We explain that we occasionally review the public transportation systems of major world cities. And anyway, somebody else wrote that one.
“Come on, girl,” Willi says to Wendy. “They’re harmless. They just wanna know what we think.”
Wendy looks at us again.
“Okay,” she says, visibly relaxing. She puts the mace into her bikini bottom.
“But don’t think I won’t whip this out again,” she says.
Willi laughs, but stops under a withering sideways glare from Wendy.
“So what do you want to ask us?” Wendy says.
We want to know what you think about the proposal to eliminate leap seconds.
“What’s a leap second?” Wendy asks.
“You know, when they add in a second at the end of the year,” Willi says to her.
“They add seconds at the end of the year?” Wendy asks Willi.
“Yeah,” Willi answers.
“What, like every four years?”
“No,” Willi says. “Just whenever they need it.”
“Well, Earth’s rotation is slowing down,” Willi says, holding up her hands as though holding a sphere. “So, like, every couple of years or so, they have to add in a leap second.”
Wendy says, “Wait, hold on. Earth is slowing down?”
“Yeah,” Willi says. “Because, like, the Moon is pulling on Earth, right? With its gravity? So we have high tide and low tide, because the Moon is pulling the water. But the water moving like that is causing all this friction. It’s like it’s braking Earth. So Earth is actually slowing down.”
“So what?” Wendy says. “Earth is gonna stop turning one day?”
“Well, no,” Willi answers. “It’ll keep going until Earth is tidally locked to the Moon. So Earth will always have the same side facing the Moon. You know, just like the same face of the Moon faces us all the time.”
“When’s that gonna happen?”
Willi says, “I don’t know. Long time. Like, billions or trillions of years. Of course, the Sun will expand and swallow us up before then anyway.”
Wendy’s eyes widen. “Wait, the Sun’s expanding?”
Willi says, “Well, it’s not now. But it is going to in a few billion years.”
Wendy asks Willi, “How do you know all this shit, anyway?”
“Mostly Doctor Who. They did an episode about it. All the humans had moved to other planets, and so a bunch of rich people came to watch Earth get destroyed.”
We agree that that was a good episode.
“Yeah, that was awesome,” Willi says. She then embarks on an imitation of Christopher Eccleston and Yasmin Bannerman: “‘Gift, yes. I give you... um... air from my lungs. Hoooooh.’ ‘How... intimate!’”
Wendy shakes her head. “I’m never gonna be as smart as you. I’m just a dumb pair of tits, that’s all.”
Willi gives Wendy a hug. “Come on now. You always say that. It’s not true.”
“Yeah it is,” Wendy insists. “I’m a moron. I can’t get a job or anything.”
“What about that modelling job?”
“See?” Wendy says. “Pair of tits, that’s all I am.”
“No,” Willi says. “You’re much more than that.”
Willi points at Wendy’s bikini bottom.
Wendy looks down. Then, in seeming shock, she looks up at Willi, turning red.
Willi looks perplexed, then embarrassed. “Oh!” she shouts. “No! I... I meant, you protect me. I was... I was pointing at the mace. You’re, like, my bodyguard.”
“Oh,” Wendy says, relieved. “Good. Because I... that’s not –”
“Yeah,” Willi says. “I know. I’m not –”
They continue to stammer unintelligibly at each other, eventually collapsing into another hug.
We ask them if they are for or against leap seconds.
“Don’t care,” Wendy says.
“For,” Willi says, “but only slightly.”
We thank them and prepare to leave.
“Wait, hang on,” Willi says. “I got a joke.”
She positions Wendy in front of her and says, “Is that mace in your bikini bottom, or are you just happy to see me?”
Ron, 36, and DeShauna, 32, are exiting a grocery store in the north Dallas area. We ask them what they think about the proposal to remove leap seconds.
“Oh, don’t ask us about that!” DeShauna says. “We been arguing about that for two weeks straight!”
Ron answers, “I don’t understand why you’re making such a big deal out of it! It’s one second! And it almost never happens! There’s only been two in the last twelve years!”
DeShauna says, ”Yeah, but who knows how much longer that’s gonna keep up? The rate Earth rotates at can’t be predicted that accurately! You know that! They gotta decide only a few months in advance! We need more certainty than that!”
“Who does?” Ron asks.
“Air traffic controllers, for one,” DeShauna responds. “They gots to use exact time. They screw something up, we got ourselves a major crash.”
“They’re already using leap seconds!” Ron counters. “They use leap seconds just like the rest of us! And they ain’t never had a problem because of that!”
DeShauna says, “So what? You wanna just sit around on your ass until they do?”
Ron responds, “There is no evidence – none whatsoever – that leap seconds have caused anybody any serious problems! Besides that, air traffic controllers are all using GPS now, and so is everybody else! There’s no leap seconds in GPS time!”
“That doesn’t change the fact that scientists need exact times!” DeShauna answers. “They need to know that the programs they’re using ain’t gonna be disrupted because there may or may not be a leap second next year!”
“Then use TAI!” Ron shouts. “Just use TAI! That’s all you gotta do!”
TAI, International Atomic Time, is like UTC but uses no leap seconds. As a result, it is currently 34 seconds ahead of UTC.
“That’s all it would do!” DeShauna shouts back. “Set UTC to be a fixed offset of TAI! That’s all that would happen!”
“What’s the point?” Ron asks. “If that’s what you’re gonna do, what is the fucking point of having UTC in the first place? Why don’t we just use TAI instead and get rid of UTC?”
“That’s fine too!” DeShauna answers. “As long as we have a time system that is predictable more than six months in advance, that’s fine!”
“We already do!” Ron responds. “We already got TAI! It’s right there!”
“This is stupid,” DeShauna suddenly says. “This is so goddam stupid.”
Ron says, “You know, baby, you’re right. We shouldn’t be arguing about –”
“Here’s your ring back,” DeShauna says, pulling a silver ring off her finger and handing it back to Ron.
Ron is at a loss for words.
“I can’t take this shit.” DeShauna turns and starts to walk away.
“Wait, what?” Ron asks.
DeShauna continues to walk away.
“Hey, where you going?” Ron asks.
Over her shoulder, DeShauna calls, “I’m going to my brother’s.”
“What?” Ron asks. “Whatchu mean? Just because of a little debate about time?”
She continues to walk away.
“She’ll be back,” Ron says. He then shouts at her, “You’ll be back!”
She continues to walk away.
Ron says to us, “So, yeah. They don’t need to change UTC. No point to it.”
Ron starts to walk away, but then peers into his shopping bag.
“Bitch left her Midol,” he says. He pulls a box of pills from his bag and throws it at her, shouting, “And take your fucking Midol with you!”
She stops and looks through her own bags.
She shouts, “Then you take your goddam Old Spice!” A plastic bottle flies through the air and skids to a halt near the cart return pen.
“And don’t forget your oatmeal!” Ron shouts, throwing a cylindrical container her way.
Throwing a box back – which lands about halfway between the two – DeShauna shouts back, “And here’s your fucking powdered detergent! Who the hell uses powder any more? It’s all liquid these days! Get with the times!”
“Get with the times?” he asks. “Get with the times?! Who’s afraid to take a leap second every now and then? You know, like the rest of the world already does!”
“Fuck you, asshole!”
“And take your nasty ass Nutella shit with you, too!” Ron shouts, casting another plastic container at her.
“You like Nutella!” she shouts back.
Ron says to us, “Yeah, I do. Probably shoulda kept it.”
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