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Civil engineering in the news - Wednesday 31 December

Drunken revellers will probably notice no difference during tomorrow's new year celebrations, but thanks to the Earth's erratic rotation they will have fractionally longer to enjoy the moment and perhaps linger over that celebratory midnight kiss.

British physicists and official timekeepers around the world will insert an extra second or "leap second" into the new year countdown to bring the most accurate atomic clocks in line with the astronomical day.

"The difference between atomic time and Earth time has now built up to the point where it needs to be corrected, so this New Year's Eve we will experience a rare 61-second minute at the very end of 2008 and revellers all over the UK will have an extra second to celebrate," said Peter Whibberley, a senior research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington who is helping to coordinate the time update.

Planning for the change, which occurs at different times of the day in other time zones, has been no trivial task. Around 25 radio time signals around the world will need to implement the leap second, plus navigation systems such as GPS and its Russian equivalent, Glonass. Internet time servers and speaking clock services will need to make the change on the stroke of midnight. Traditionally, BBC Radio 4's hourly six pips are extended to seven to denote the change - The Guardian

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