When Time Stops…

It’s singular.
It’s exciting.
And it’s coming very soon.

On 30 June 2015, for exactly one second, time will stop!


No. Setting all hype and melodrama aside, time will of course not “stop”. There will simply be a leap second event, where one second will be inserted into time (as we know it) after 23:59:59 on 30 June. The purpose is to align UTC time with solar observations, and it is similar to what happens in a leap year, when an extra day 29 February is ‘inserted’ into the calendar.

Unlike the leap year, however, the timing of when to inject leap seconds is not known in advance; it is decided collectively by an organisation of very dedicated individuals based on complicated calculations. This decision usually takes place six months prior to the injection timing.

Will my Oscilloclock break?

If the leap second timing is not known well in advance, and cannot be easily computed, how can your clock know that a leap second is happening and adjust to it?

Well, dear Oscilloclock owners, have no fear! The Garmin GPS unit shipped with all clocks crafted to date will receive an indicator from the satellites that a leap second has occurred, and the GPS will simply process the second “00:00:00” twice.

Leap second handling by a Garmin GPS

Leap second handling by a Garmin GPS

Upon the next GPS output timing, you will actually see the effect of the leap second on the Oscilloclock screen. Of course, if you change your Oscilloclock’s configuration to update time from the GPS every single second, you’ll be able to enjoy the special moment immediately!

With this configuration, it may take up to 10s to see time "stop"

With this configuration, it may take up to 10s to see time “stop”

What will it look like?

In Oscilloclock digital clock faces it will simply appear that time has stopped for a second. (There might be a brief flickering instant where the clock ticks forward and the GPS instantly ticks it back, but it’s unlikely to be noticeable.)

The analogue clock faces feature a second hand propelled every half-second. In this mode, you’ll observe the secondhand half-tick forward and then flick back. Oh, such excitement!

But I don’t have GPS…

If you have built your own Oscilloclock boards or are operating without GPS, then you will need to manually set the time. (Of course, you might be used to this – as the onboard clock is no more accurate than your average quartz clock.)

Time Configuration Screen on the Tek 520 VectorClock

Time Configuration Screen on the Tek 520 VectorClock

For further reading…

I recently read Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time at a friend’s recommendation. This story presents a well-hashed theme, of  people capable of ‘slicing’ time; that is, stopping others’ time for their own use. (The book does present other far more unique ideas, such as storage and relocation of time – making it well worth a read!)

Sadly, an Oscilloclock will not allow you to do any of this exotic stuff.
You’ll just have to make do with watching time stop for 1 second.
It will either be riveting, or you won’t notice.
Time will tell!