2015’s Extra Second May Cause Computer Problems

March 17, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. go haywire /goʊˈheɪˌwaɪər/ (phrasal v.) – to suddenly stop working or have errors
Example: Computers go haywire because of viruses.

2. in sync /ɪnsɪŋk/ (adverb phrase) – happening or operating at the same time
Example: I keep my clock in sync with the Internet time.

3. crash /kræʃ/ (n.) – an event in which a computer or program stops working
Example: An improper installation can cause crashes in a computer program.

4. downtime /ˈdaʊnˌtaɪm/] (n.) – a period when a machine or system is not working
Example: The website had two hours of downtime during its maintenance.

5. abolish /əˈbɒl ɪʃ/ (v.) – to end the use or existence of something
Example:  The congress will abolish the cybercrime law.


Read the text below.
Computer systems might go haywire because of an extra second to be added in 2015.

On June 30, a “leap second” will be added, as announced by The International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service (IERS). The extra second is needed to keep the clocks worldwide in sync with the earth’s rotation. There was a delay in world clocks because the earth’s rotation has slowed down, which was caused by natural occurrences like earthquakes and the weather.

Because of the delay in world clocks, changes need to be applied to the time format of computer systems. To illustrate, computers in sync with atomic clocks will show 11:60 p.m. before proceeding to 12:00 a.m. of July 1. Another possible scenario is that the clock will show the 59th second twice before showing the next minute. These changes in the time format can cause crashes in a computer system.

The last leap second happened in 2012. This caused downtime for websites like Mozilla, Reddit, Yelp, and Foursquare. Some flights were delayed as airline systems had trouble with the time format change. The addition of the extra second also interrupted the global positioning system receivers used by pilots.

Google solved the problem in 2012 by employing a strategy called “leap smear,” in which milliseconds were gradually added in the computers’ clocks instead of a leap second.

Given the problems, most countries want to abolish the leap second rule. The International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency handling international time standards, will be voting on the abolishment this November. If successful, the leap second will no longer be used starting 2020.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How do you think the leap second will affect you?
·         How important is a one-second difference in business, communication, transportation, etc.?

Discussion B

·         What time of the day is the most important to you? Kindly discuss.
·         How do you manage your time wisely?

March 17, 2015