Posted by: Arthur Blake | 2008-02-29

Happy Leap Year Day!

February 29 creeped up on me this year. I didn’t realize it was a leap year until just a couple of days ago! So I wanted to get a quick post in… since I won’t have another chance to post on this date for 4 years!

I’ve been heads down in coding up an enterprise Scheduler for a client, using the Quartz Scheduler library. Every time I have to deal with dates and times and time-zones, I am reminded how incredibly complex and bizarre the calendar system we use is–

It’s all just an elaborate construction to make sense of time in some kind of orderly way…

mind boggling

The passing of February 29 just reminds me how utterly imprecise our calendar system is. We have to add leap days every 4 years (except for even century years like the year 2000), and leap seconds are also added relatively frequently to further bring the wobbly rotation of the earth on it’s axis and it’s orbit around the sun into alignment with our calendar system. It’s mind boggling.

Do we even know when a leap second passes? Or does it all just get lost in the hustle and bustle… I was wondering that the other day. I had set my digital watch to a self adjusting clock (one of those clocks that keeps up with the supposed “real” time via radio signals.) I had checked the watch a week later and it was 5 seconds slow… Is my watch just slow… or did I miss a leap second or few?

Everyone counts down to zero on New Year’s day as if it’s some big singular moment, and yet each New Year actually happens at 24 (or more) distinct times on the earth.

Every time I have to deal with interpreting time zones and calculating date offsets across time zones, I get really confused for at least a little while.

There are so many rules based on political boundaries, local customs, daylight savings time and regional variations that it’s impossible to get it all straight across the planet. I’m really glad that libraries like the Java API and Joda time encapsulate most of the muck– or I’d REALLY be lost!

Once close-to-speed-of-light interstellar space travel becomes common and the mind warping effects of Time dilation come into play I’ll REALLY be lost!


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