Codex Gastropoda #4:The Time Snails

The onset of a new year often inspires sentiments revolving around endings and beginnings. These might be memories accumulated over the year past and/or resolutions slated to inform the coming year. Both are part of our big picture, but share an underlying urgency to affect change in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we interact. Inevitably we all wish for more time to bring these new realities into being. The irony is that the process of time in the known universe remains a universal mystery even as we create methods for containing and measuring it. In that sense, time as a human construct theoretically offers us more power to use it than we often wish to acknowledge. Though the construct of ‘leap years’ are a familiar phenomenon, ‘leap seconds’ and the need to insert them into our time systems are relatively obscure. Since 1972, the ‘temporal authorities’ of The International Earth Rotation Services of the Bureau of Weights and Measures, at Paris, France, have slipped an extra ‘leap second’ into the calendar, making their decision to do so either on June 30 or December 31 of the target year.  This was done to maintain the accuracy of atomic clocks that are affected by the irregular spin of the Earth, which seems to be slowing down. December 31 of 2010 is being considered for the next insertion. If this is not done conscientiously, they claim, then after several centuries, the time discrepancy would amount to one whole hour or more. With all the time we spend online and in pursuit of less than world-changing activities, many of us probably wouldn’t notice.  Anyway, most clocks are not designed to accommodate leap seconds and because we are so synced to automated systems, there is the potential to mess with our minds that defies logic. Remembering the pre-email days of frantic deadlines for illustration assignments, it would’ve been handy to offer the following scenario to a client: “Well, I’d love to have this drawing ready for you tomorrow, but according to temporal authorities, if I don’t have another day to work on it, time as we know it will bend out of recognition, worlds will collide and the universe will pretty much descend into utter chaos as a result. Will Wednesday be okay?”

On that thought, I’ve resolved to reset my clocks on December 31 and gather my grand plans for 2011. Here’s wishing you all the time you need for yours in the New Year, too…

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