A One Second Fright

Back on June 30th at midnight there were quite a lot of worried people. It even led to the early closing of the Stock Exchanges in USA and Nasdaq – the technology heavy stock exchange – stopped trading at 19.48 [7.48 pm] and closed at 19.55.

The stock exchanges in Australia, Japan and South Korea decided to follow Google and Amazon and deal with the problem differently.

All for the sake of One Second.


Considering the billions of dollars at stake all over the globe the problem was that we had to add a second to our time, and that meant there was a risk of creating chaos in all situations that were dependent on exact, precise time.

So on that Wednesday night time went from 23.59.59 not to 00.00.00 as per normal, but to 23.59.60.

In 1967 the atomic clock was introduced and since has been independent of the earth’s rotation atomic clockfor time keeping, but the problem is that earth’s rotation speed has slowed, whilst the clocks do not, so an adjustment had become necessary.

Chances are you may already have observed similar adjustments which actually started in 1972, and the last one in 2012 before this year’s. In fact 25 times all together, but – and this is the big difference – this time technology caught up with the change because electronic trading on stock exchanges and financial markets had been introduced and one second could create chaos as the Asian markets opens at the precise moment when the clock is at 20.00 in New York.

You might think that a second is unlikely to matter much, but 1.4 million buy or sell orders are placed in that time and 4.6 million US dollars of shares changes hands all over the world every second.

At the last adjustment in 2012 there were problems with some high profile net entities like LinkedIn, Reddit, and Qantas Airways. Timing can be tricky.

In the case of Google and Amazon and the local markets they decided to split the second into microscopic pieces added over a number of hours so each of the 86400 seconds of June 30 became a microscopic bit longer, and the problem was solved.

The Observatory in Paris oversaw the change and kept in all under control.








Enjoy every Second.