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[Opinion] One Second

Posted August. 03, 2005 03:05,   


This year, mankind has been given one extra second. The gap between “11:59 p.m., December 31, 2005” and “00:00 a.m., January 1, 2006” will be 61 seconds with an extra second. This is a leap second. This is the 23rd time since the earth’s standard atomic clock began to be physically adjusted to the speed of the earth’s rotation in 1972. The earth’s rotation speed is 24 hours a day, but in the recent 20 to 30 years, its speed has been delayed by almost one second a year, making it inevitable to adjust time. Some say it was affected by strong winds and the ocean currents.

For average people, one second might not be of that much importance. However, an error of one second is deadly in the fields of communications, navigation, and air traffic control. It is said that a one-second delay in operating the controlling wheels in the air can twist the direction of a ship by 400 meters. In athletics or speed skating, a winner is decided by a fraction of one hundredths. Hitting the ball centered by a soccer player to the head or the foot would require a quick body movement within 0.01 second.

According to the Big Bang Theory, the universe was a single dot at the beginning of the world, and the current order of universe was formed after a big explosion all of a sudden. Scholars explain that the incidence that took place in such a short period of time had a much bigger scope than the changes in the universe later on. Ironically, it means that the big explosion less than a second long can be said to have taken much longer than the age of the universe, that is 15 to 20 billion years. It reminds one of a saying, “A moment is eternity, and vice versa.”

“Ksana” or a moment is a Buddhist word for the minimum unit of time. According to one famous Buddhist scripture, one ksana is 1/75th of a second. In a way, the extra time given to the mankind this year is 75 ksanas. However, for those saving every minute, it is not a short time. Only those weak at wisely spending time complain that they do not have much time. One Chinese classic from the Han Dynasty said, “A wise man cherishes a minute more than a physical area. Time is hard to gain, but easy to lose.”

Song Young-eon, Editorial writer, youngeon@donga.com