Monday, October 3, 2011

Bad Timing

Time is a funny thing, humans generally use the diurnal rotation of the planet coupled with its annual rotation around the Sun as the standard measure. Yes it's not precise, but over the centuries we've built in a few checks and balances to even up the odd bits and bobs left over at the end of the yearly rotation which is why we have Leap years and no doubt eventually a double Leap year if and when it's decided to even things up again. It's how our calendars and watches work, fitting into the human sense of what seems to be right. Sadly though there are always some who wish to meddle and in this case it's the EU and A group of scientists from the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), based near Paris who want to use the time from an atomic clock system to replace GMT. I doubt that it's spite, though the French have never been particularly happy about GMT becoming the international standard as opposed to Paris Mean Time which is one degree of latitude out.
Meddling Eurocrats are threatening an even more integral part of our British heritage – Greenwich Mean Time.
A group of scientists from the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), based near Paris, want to axe the last vestiges of the Greenwich Mean Time system, under which day-length is based on the rotation of the earth.
Under the new proposals, which have been rejected by the British Government, the scientists argue that day-length should be based solely on atomic clocks, which differ slightly from astronomical time. Since 1972, standard international time has combined both.
But the new proposals would mean Britain’s role in global timekeeping would finally be relegated to a footnote in history, with the BIPM in France effectively taking charge. Dr Elisa Felicitas Arias, of the BIPM, said: “We want to de-couple the world’s timekeeping from its link to the rotation of the Earth.  
Rejecting the plans, Science Minister David Willets said: “This is primarily a finely-balanced scientific argument.
“But I do detect undercurrents of nationalism. Britain’s position is that we should stick to real time as experienced by humans, which is based on the Earth’s rotation, not atomic clocks.”
Under the alternative proposed system, he said, we would lose contact with the reality of Earth’s rotation.
This could mean that, “eventually our midnight would happen at noon”.
Real time does indeed work fine for most people, after all, we live in real time so Midnight and Noon should remain the same, 12 hours apart and we live our lives in-between. Atomic time however takes no notice of minor variations in the Earth's rotation because of our planets rotation and minor wobbles occasionally happen which are corrected manually without our noticing by establishments by the BBC and the atomic clock people at Jodrell Bank. Sticking however to an atomic time system would eventually move the Midnight and Noon cycle out of synchronisation with what people perceive to be the actual time and I suspect that things would rapidly go back to the old system though possibly if the French have their way it would be based upon Paris Mean Time rather than Greenwich Mean Time, that is how the EU seem to work in favour of most things French with the Germans paying the bills.
Time will tell no doubt.

5 annotations:

Anonymous said...

I think we should have Edinburgh time.

Quiet_Man said...

Certainly closer to the centre of the UK, though no tradition of timekeeping.

James Higham said...

A group of scientists from the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), based near Paris, want to axe the last vestiges of the Greenwich Mean Time system

You bet they do and have been trying this on since the French Holocaust ... er ... Revolution.

English Pensioner said...

We already have UTC which for all practical purposes is the same as GMT and is used for most purposes, but primarily the Aviation Industry. It is managed by the The International Telecommunication Union which is based in Geneva.
It has a French name "Universel Temps Coordonné" which is more than enough.
Technically, this is the time used by the internet.

Restoring Britain said...

Of course they do - they've managed to decouple the climate from the sun with great success so why stop there