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A Glitch in Time

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Author:Ivars Peterson (MathLand)
Description: On June 30, time stood still for one second. Clocks stopped and an additional second was added to the day. This adjustment was needed to bring the official time into agreement with Earth's ever-so-slowly decreasing rotation rate. It was the 21st leap second since the first one was added on June 30, 1972. This tiny adjustment is just one more place where computers can go wrong in keeping time and dealing with the vagaries of the calendar. By now, everyone has probably heard about the problems that may arise when the year 2000 arrives. Any computer system that stores or handles fewer than the full four digits of the year will have to deal with a year number that is smaller than its predecessor. Subtractions to determine the time interval will yield negative numbers, with unexpected and potentially disastrous consequences.

Levels: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Languages: English
Resource Types: Publications
Math Topics: Calendars/Dates/Time

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