Take a Second — To Celebrate the Fabled Leap Second

Five digital clocks show leap second, 2012. Photo by Skip Newhall

Only two of the five displays Skip had at the party got the Leap Second right: No. 2 (Universal Time); and No. 3 (Pacific Daylight Time). Photo by Skip Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

My brother-in-law Skip loves to throw a party. He throws a beer tasting party in his garage every Fourth of July. He also throws a party for his 1988 Toyota Celica from time to time — whenever it racks up another 100,000 miles on the odometer. The last one was in 2009 at 500,000 miles.

skip newhall 2011. Photo by Jon Newhall


But this year’s party — a Leap Second party — was second to none. That’s right, a Leap Second party.

We all know about Leap Year. But how many of us non-geeks know about the fabled Leap Second?

Every once in a while the atomic clocks of the world get out of synch with the actual movement of the Earth, Skip will tell you if you give him a few seconds of your time. An adjustment has to be

skip throws a beer party in his garage july 4 2007. Photo by BF Newhall

Skip likes to throw a beer-tasting party in his garage on July 4. Photo by BF Newhall

made in the atomic clocks — otherwise, before you know it, we’ll be celebrating the Fourth of July in the dead of winter, and New Year’s in the swelter of summer.

Skip explained all this to the 40-plus wine-drinking, hors d’oeuvres-nibbling friends and neighbors who showed up for the Leap Second party he threw on June 30, 2012. Among the party guests were my daughter Christina and my other (more conventional) brother-in-law Tony.

Below is a link to a video of the party at Skip’s house, which lasted a full second longer than it would have, had it been thrown on an ordinary 86400-second day.

When you watch the video and the Leap Second count-down, watch the digital clock on the lower right. It will go from 58 to 59 to 60 seconds before flipping back to 00 seconds. That 60th second is the famous Leap Second.

Kick back, take some time out, and enjoy your bonus second of time!

Skip’s Leap Second Video.

odometer for 1988 toyota celica at 500,000 miles. photo by skip newhall

Skip’s 1988 Toyota Celica hit 500,000 miles in 2009; he’s hoping for 600,000 by the end of 2013. It still has its original engine and gets 40 mpg on the highway. Photo by Skip Newhall.