Earth’s shortest-ever day has scientists panicking over ‘devastating’ effects

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Earth has recorded its shortest day on record, sparking panic among scientists.

A miniscule 1.59 milliseconds was shaved off the normal 24-hour rotation on June 29, due to the planet’s “wobble” reducing.

But experts say if it keeps happening, a “negative second” will need to be removed from atomic clocks. And the impact on software could lead to satellites crashing, corrupted data, wrong time stamps and mass outages for vital systems – from banking to hospitals.

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The timeanddate website warned after the June 29 shortest day: “If Earth’s fast rotation continues, it could lead to the introduction of the first-ever negative leap second.

“A negative leap second would mean that our clocks skip one second, which could potentially create problems for IT systems.”

Facebook owner Meta said late last month in a blog a negative leap second could have a “devastating effect”.

It added: “The impact of a negative leap second has never been tested on a large scale; it could have a devastating effect on the software relying on timers or schedulers.

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“Introducing new leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we believe it is time to introduce new technologies to replace it.

“The leap second and the offset it creates cause issues all over the industry.”

The previous fastest day was –1.47 milliseconds under 24 hours on July 19 2020.

And the June 29 record was almost broken again on July 26, when the day was –1.50 milliseconds shorter.

In 2012, Reddit was inaccessible for up to 40 minutes after an outage caused by a leap second which confused the system’s timer.

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