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  July 2015

The longest day (again)

Many people believe that the longest day of 2015 was on the 21st of June - the beginning of Summer. They were right about the Summer bit, but in fact the longest day of 2015 is going to be the 1st of July, and its going to be exactly one second longer than any other day of the year.

This is because the people at the
International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service have announced that an extra second will have to be added to universal time at 23:59:59 on 30 of June this year. The clocks in nearly all countries show universal coordinated time - UTC - which is the time standard regulated by atomic clocks. Unfortunately the planet Earth is part of a very complicated mechanical system which does not keep time with the same precision. In fact, the Earth slows down continuously and hence every once in a while it becomes necessary to insert a leap second. The last time this happened was in July 2012.

This slowdown is caused mainly by the Sun and the Moon via tidal friction and transfer of momentum, but also by vulcanic erruptions and irregular movements of the liquid core of our lovely planet. (The list goes on!)

atomic clock decoder pulse

The illustration above is from a program specially commissioned by the Newsbrowser, which tracks the output of the atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory. Each one of the double pulses represents 0.1 of a second difference between GMT and UTC. By a quick count it can be seen that our clocks are 0.7 of a second too slow. Hence the time correction at the end of June. To make things even more complicated, because in Britain we currently operate daylight saving time which is one hour ahead of UTC, the actual change will happen at the end of the first hour of July 1st.

A lot of internet firms which use complicated computer programs twenty four hours a day are very angry about this extra second because it confuses their computers and costs them money. They  blame the Earth rather than bad programming and want the insertion of leap seconds stopped. A decision about this is going to be taken sometime this year.

1st July 2015

Readers may be interested to know what the leap second correction looks like. Below is a screenshot taken this afternoon.

After the leap second
Between the two red markers:

The broad pulse marks the beginning of the new minute. This is followed by three double pulses indicating that now we are 300ms ahead of GMT.

This makes sense of course. Yesterday we were 0.7 seconds behind GMT, a second was added, so no we are 0.3 seconds ahead of GMT.

Isn't science fun?

The Tall Ships race

Tall ships

There were quite a few windjammers jamming the North Coast on the 6th of this month. Our picture shows the view from the Gortmore viewing point on Benevenagh looking towards Scotland. The tall ships were first assembled in Belfast - where a big festival was held. The race is from Belfast to Aalborg in Denmark - allegedly, because the imaginary start line was really five miles off the coast of Portrush.

Below is a close-up of two of the largest ships - the best that could be done in the terrible weather conditions. On the right is a map showing the many ships cluttering up the Portrush coast line.

closeup of the tall shipsA lot of ships

Giant stepsHow to spoil a beauty spot

This is the view that meets the astonished eye when one approaches the Gortmore viewing point up on the Bishops Road.

It is not often one sees a staircase which dwarves the hillock it is ascending - and all to reach a small clump of stones at the end of the journey. Words like 'Overkill', 'What's the point?' and 'Oh my goodness' spring to mind.

This writer can't help wondering what our council would do if Limavady happened to be a small  town near - say - the Eiger or the Matterhorn.

Now there would be a staircase to challenge the imagination!

The Limavady showThe Limavady Agricultural Show

This annual event took place on the 18th of this month and - as usual - was very popular. Both human and not so human creatures attended in great numbers and - considering what the weather had been like during the last few days - it was warm and even occasionally sunny!

Horses, all kinds of sheep and obedient dogs were to be seen all over the place. Various agricultural activities were also demonstrated.


The boys on the left for instance, gave a powerful demonstration on how to build a fence the old-fashioned way faster than anybody else.

A good looking ram

We can't of course leave this subject, without showing a picture of one of the stars of the show.



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