It’s a tiny time alteration but it’s significant. Just one 61-second minute may be enough to crash complex computing systems.
The so-called “leap second” was unleashed in the 1970’s as a way to make up for slight variations in time. Basically, the earth doesn’t rotate at exactly the same rate every year so this small adjustment allegedly keeps us all on track.
But this year’s leap second, at 8 p.m. eastern time coincides with the opening of many Asian financial markets, so extra-second-worries have set in.
The Nasdaq is shutting down at 7:48 p.m. eastern time. Other major exchanges are also trading early or opening late.
There is reason for concern. In 2012, a leap second crashed multiple sites, including Yelp, Reddit and Foursquare. Qantas airline lost their entire system for hours, checking in passengers by hand.
Google has a fix in place. The company will add milliseconds to its servers all day instead of one whopping second all at once.
Is this really necessary given the risks to technology and world markets?
Some say no. Opponents to the leap second point out that even if we had a leap second every year, the earth would only be 16 minutes out of sync by the year 3015.