“Underneath the second hand
the slow ticks of my life tock away
like a silent parade walking
until no sound exists anymore
and all I have left is a broken hand
and no cast to reset it in.”
This poem hints at the time slipping away every second that we realise in the course of the Earth’s daily rotation. Scientists seem to have concluded that the Earth’s usual rotation now goes a little faster than earlier. Owing to this unusual aspect, the 24-hour long days are ever-so-slightly shorter. This has caused scientists to note that the Earth has been inclined to turn at its fastest pace in the past 50 years. This would imply adding a ‘negative leap second’ to account for the slightly shorter days — the first time this has happened as scientists have begun to believe.
What exactly is a leap second? It is periodically inserted into the atomic scale of reckoning time to bring it into line with solar time. It is indicated by an additional bleep in the time signal at the end of a fixed number of years.
A negative leap second would mean the Earth is spinning faster, but this physical phenomena gives rise to a slow rotation of the Earth. It is not impossible, but a negative leap second would likely be followed by a positive one in short order, as experts indicate.
Then, what we come to discern is that the present phenomenon marks a stark contrast to previous years, with a total of 27 “leap seconds” having been added to our years since the 1970s, in order to keep atomic time in line with solar time. For decades, the Earth has taken slightly longer than 24 hours to complete a rotation, but it has been taking slightly less since the year 2020.
The day July 19, 2020, was 1.4602 milliseconds shorter than a 24-hour day – the shortest day since records initiated. Peter Wibberley, a senior research scientist from the National Physical Laboratory’s time and frequency group, said:
“The Earth is spinning faster now than at any time in the last 50 years. A negative leap second will be needed if the Earth’s rotation rate increases further, but it’s too early to say if this is likely to happen. Global deliberations are reportedly on about the future of leap seconds, and the need for a negative leap second might push the decision towards ending leap seconds for good.”