Natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions tend to slow the earth’s rotation, requiring an occasional “leap second” to allow the earth to catch up.
New Year’s Eve will usher in a new year and a new second to keep international clocks in sync with our planet’s rotation.
The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service regulates when a leap second is needed since the atomic clock doesn’t make room for extra seconds in the 86,400 seconds it measures each day.
The problem is many computer systems can’t compute a 61-second minute and could malfunction, as we saw with the leap second pandemonium of 2012.
That single extra second wreaked havoc online, bringing down many apps and websites such as Reddit, Yelp, and LinkedIn.
According to CNN, Qantas Airlines’ computer system shut down, forcing employees to manually check-in customers.
Some of those sites have since followed Google’s lead by adding milliseconds every hour on the day the leap second is set to take place.
The leap second of June 30th, 2015 went much more smoothly, but experts are still anticipating some system malfunctions.
Though leap seconds keep our man-made clocks in sync with the earth itself, opponents say they are not worth the mayhem they cause.
After all, over the next 1,000 years, leap seconds would only add about an estimated 15 minutes to international clocks.
For now, however, the occasional leap second is here to stay.
So, hopefully, the only fireworks we see on New Year’s Eve are in the sky – and not online.