I've been reading the list archives. Parts of the discussion are rather repetetive. I think the search space could be narrowed quite a bit if the list produced a canonical statement of consensus, listing facts on which there is no dispute. This would serve much the same purpose as a FAQ, as well as possibly a base for a final report on the leap seconds issue. Let us grok in fullness before coming to a conclusion.
So as a start here are some statements that I think are not controversial on this list. If any are disputed, please speak up. nature of time scales --------------------- UT1 et al are not really measures of time, but of angle (of Terran rotation). Readings of UT1 et al are most naturally represented as a real count of rotations since some epoch (i.e., as some form of Julian Date). Because TT, TAI, et al are measures of time unrelated to planetary rotation, it is misleading to apply to them the day-based notations (such as the sexegesimal time-of-day notation) that are customarily used with UT1 et al. Readings of linear time scales (TT, TAI, et al) are most naturally represented as a real count of SI seconds since some epoch. Post-1972 UTC, counting TAI seconds while maintaining a "day" cycle that closely matches the phase of UT1, is directly analogous to calendars that count days while maintaining a "year" cycle that closely matches the phase of the tropical year. Readings of UTC cannot be directly represented by a single linear count. As a calendar, UTC is presently of the observational variety. civil time ---------- Up to the present, most human activity has been in the long term synchronised with local solar time. We are not in a position to determine whether, to what extent, and for how long, the synchronisation between activity periods of Terran humans and the rotation of the planet will be maintained. Up to the present, local civil time has approximately maintained a conventional correspondence with the timing of human activity. By the use of standard time zones, the correspondence between local civil time and local mean solar time has historically varied within a range of about five hours, excluding arctic regions. It is presently commonplace for the correspondence between local civil time and local mean solar time to vary periodically with an amplitude of one hour. It is convenient for the civil time in different localities to have a simple relationship. Where civil time involves a unit very close in duration to the SI second, it is convenient for that to actually be the SI second on the geoid. time handling in software ------------------------- Unix time, as standardised by POSIX and as commonly implemented, is a faulty encoding of UTC. The fault is that Unix time readings repeat, and so are ambiguous, near positive leap seconds. The Unix time interfaces are capable of being used to correctly encode UT1, TAI, UTC-SLS, or other time scales that do not have internally-visible leap seconds. Some applications assume that Unix time is monotonically nondecreasing, or that timestamps are unambiguous, and so are poorly served by the encoding of UTC in Unix time. Some applications assume that Unix time is a linear scale suitable for interval calculations, and so are poorly served by the encoding of any form of UT in Unix time. Some applications assume that Unix time encodes UTC, including discontinuous behaviour around leap seconds, and so would be poorly served by the encoding of anything other than UTC in Unix time. New applications need a more sophisticated understanding of time than is currently standard practice. Various applications require means to handle civil time, TAI, and UT1, among other time scales. Applications need to process times that are contemporary, historical, and in the foreseeable future, on all time scales they are interested in. When dealing with observational calendars and other unpredictable aspects of time scales, applications need a way to be sure that they have sufficiently fresh information about calendar structure. time dissemination ------------------ Human society needs to develop better means to disseminate a multiplicity of time scales. -zefram