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What is Time in 2012? Print
September 2012

Time is a reference framework, a resource, and a question we have no answer of.  Every person has a limited span of time in life and so a limited amount of what each can do or achieve.  When two persons or two machines over two different places want to meet, time will be needed as a criterion to synchronize.  We have heard that people adjusted their clocks when a train in Japan or Germany arrived in the train station.  This implies that trains in Japan and Germany were very punctual and their arrivals were used for synchronization.

The Definition of Time Act of London in 1888 was among the first legislations in the world on time.  The Greenwich Royal Observatory was a first official party to implement official time.  Unfortunately scientific communities did not think Greenwich Mean Time was accurate enough for the world and various other observatories have published their own time.

The US Naval Observatory has been very serious on time and done a lot of work to improve timeliness.  The latest we read about USNO was that its time was produced by over 30 caesium beams and 13 hydrogen masers.  As many as 70 other national observatories around the world have been engaging in similar activities.  Fortunately they all submit their work to the Bureau of Weights and Measures based in France for collating into an International Atomic Time (TAI), and further publishing as the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) for real life use to include consideration of the Earth’s Rotation. We have added 25 leap seconds since 1 January 1972 when UTC was first established and up to June 2012.  When a leap second is added, the time would read HR:MIN:60 which does not normally exist.

A second is a defined unit of measurement.  The original definition is the time taken by the Earth to rotate 1/86400 of one cycle which consists of 24 hours of 60 minutes of 60 seconds. We add leap seconds to adjust laboratory atomic measurements to produce UTC, and leap years to produce the official solar calendar. 

NTP (Network Time Protocol) allows computers around the world to synchronize with the USNO time over the Internet.  USNO has a discrepancy of up to 26ns with UTC, but the Internet transmission delay has a magnitude of milliseconds.

Omega was the official time keeper for the Olympics Games in 1932 and the last one in London in 2012 among other years.  Time keepers used palm and mechanical based stop watches up to split second accuracy in 1932.  Now time keeping is not palm based and is electronic and atomic based and has a resolution of 1us.  This is 0.000001 second!

Sunlight takes about 8 minutes to reach Earth.  We can use a Time Space 2-dimensional diagram to denote this scenario.  This is a scientific interpretation of time and an illustration of the imaginative capabilities of human brains.

Does time have a beginning and an end?  If a big bang is the outcome of a big crunch and vice versa, then the answer is no.  What would happen if there is a beginning or an end of time?