2266: Leap Smearing
Title text: Some people suspect that it started as a "No, I didn't forget Valentine's Day" excuse that got out of hand.
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a SMEARED LEAP SECOND. Please check my calculations of the time if using the 10th February and evenly spread 24 hours over 29 days. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Humans measure time by regularly-sized intervals, but the natural world is not always so accommodating. Just like we add leap days every four years (except for years divisible by 100 but not 400) to prevent our calendars from drifting with respect to the seasons, we add leap seconds to the clock every now and then to prevent 12:00 PM from drifting away from solar noon. Unfortunately, Earth's day is not as regular as Earth's year, so leap seconds cannot be predicted with a formula but are instead added as needed, most recently in 2016. Officially, the leap second is added at midnight (so a clock will tick 23:59:59...23:59:60...00:00:00), but this is an extremely inconvenient edge case, to the point that there are many proposals to do away with leap seconds entirely (as of this comic strip's publication, the matter will be discussed in the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023).
Rather than inserting an extra tick into timestamps and dealing with the resulting hiccups (e.g. programs hard-coded to expect that every minute will contain exactly sixty seconds), Google's services 'smear' the leap second over the course of a 24-hour period, officially called Leap Smear by Google. The smear is centered on the leap second (at midnight) so from noon the day before to the noon the day after each second is 11.6 μs longer (1s/(24*60*60) = 11,574 μs). This difference is too small for computers to be bothered with, and by centering on midnight the difference in time will never be more than half a second at midnight; just before midnight it will be half a second behind, after midnight it'll be half a second ahead. This comic's joke arises from the idea of extending this practice to smearing leap days over the month of February. This comic strip was published three weeks before a leap day, February 29th, 2020.
In the comic, Cueball is visiting one of Google's facilities, presumably during office hours and on the 10th day of February, when the comic was released. But when he looks at their clocks he sees they are all around 3:00 AM (which is in the middle of the night). He thus asks Ponytail and Hairy why their clocks are wrong. Ponytail tells him it is because of leap day smearing.
Ponytail explains that adding an extra day creates too many glitches. So they just run their clocks 3.4% slower during February. She thus states that it works approximately like leap smearing for seconds, so that an extra day's 24 hours are spread evenly out over the course of February, keeping it at the regular 28 days, but still running over 24*29 = 696 hours, even though their clocks only go through 672 hours = 24*28.
Thus the 24 hours less to count are spread out over the 696 real hours, which means their clocks run 24/696 = 3.445 % slower (matching the 3.4% Ponytail mentions). Every day will thus be 0.83 hours longer (24/29). So after 9 days of their time, (the comic was released on February 10th), the clocks will be 7 hours and 27 minutes behind when it says it is midnight before the 10th day of the month. Thus if such a clock is saying 3:02 AM on February 10th it would mean that the time would actually be 10:35 AM on February 10th, well within working hours. The last 6 minutes, (from 2+27 = 29 to 35 minutes) comes from the 3 hours and 2 minutes of the current day also running 3,4% slower, adding a further 6.5 minutes of real time.
The idea would of course, contrary to leap second smearing, be very inconvenient for those following it, due to the fact that it would be out of sync with the rotation of the earth for most of the course of the month. And also with all their local business partners. (Of course it would mean they would sync up better with some of their partners abroad, see 1335: Now.) A different kind of time-smearing was looked at in a far earlier comic that was actually designed with a form of convenience in mind, and it would be interesting to see what the results could be of creatively combining both systems.
The title text humorously suggests that some people (at Google) suspect that the real reason for the leap day smearing was actually a "No, I didn't forget Valentine's Day" excuse that got out of hand. Randall has some issues with Valentines, see for example 1016: Valentine Dilemma. This comic was released four days before Valentines Day of 2020. It was the first time in 8 years he made any reference to Valentine around this time of year, but the seventh time in total. Interesting to see if he also releases a Valentine related comic on Friday of the week, as that falls one Valentine Day February 14th 2020.
The idea is, that maybe a CEO at Google forgot to buy something for his Girlfriend for Valentine, and thus tried to suggest that it was not because he forgot, but that at his work it was still February 14th. This would then be based on the leap day smearing. This would have to mean that it was first introduced last time Valentine Day was in a year with leap day, which was four years before this comics release, thus in February 2016. But of course it would not be relevant until 2020 for Google. And as the caption says This year, Google has expanded their leap second "smearing" to cover leap days as well.
Half way through the month the CEO would thus have about 11 extra hours to buy her a present in time, if she complains about him forgetting it in the evening of the real 14th of February.
- [Cueball, Ponytail, and Hairy are looking up at a digital clock on a wall. It displays the time in white on a black background, with a logo on the frame beneath the time.]
- 3:02 AM
- Cueball: Why do the clocks say it's 3AM?
- Ponytail: Adding an extra day creates too many glitches. Instead, we're just running our clocks 3.4% slower during February, to avoid the irregularity.
- [Caption below the panel:]
- This year, Google has expanded their leap second "smearing" to cover leap days as well.
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