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Today Will Be One Second Longer Than Usual

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Hopefully your Tuesday is off to a great start because there's going to be just a little bit more of it than we're used to. Our very precise modern clocks measure exactly 86,400 seconds between one midnight and the next. Unfortunately, one full rotation of the Earth actually takes 86,400.002 seconds because of the way the oceans work against the gravitational forces of the various celestial bodies to ever so slightly slow the Earth's spin. To accommodate this, all those milliseconds are lumped together into a full second that is added to the year at a predetermined to time to re-sync our clocks with the Earth's rotation. Today is that time. The extra second is added at the very end of the day, 11:59 p.m., according to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Here in New York, and the rest of the East Coast, that will translate to 7:59 p.m.

This year features the 25th such leap second to be added since scientists at the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service first started calling for them in 1972. These days, though, they're being added at a slower rate because the Earth's rotation is slowing more gradually than it was in the '70s. Of course, the earth's rotation was variable even before then, but modern technologies like satellite navigation require a level of precision that makes such adjustments necessary.

Or at least that's how the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service and some countries feel. Others, including the United States, think adding the seconds is a cumbersome process, especially considering the scale of inaccuracy. If leap seconds were done away with, it's estimated that it would take over 200 years for our bodies to register even an hour difference in the way the clocks reflect the time of day.

Opponents cite the billions of devices around the world that rely on absolute precision that could suffer Y2K style bugs later today. Computer systems, especially those that live on the Internet, might not be prepared to handle an extra second, especially because there were no leap seconds added between 1999 and 2002 while the web was in its formative stages. When the last leap second was added in 2012, sites as big as Amazon and Reddit faced associated issues. This year, Amazon and others like Google, have instituted various ways to account for the extra second, adding it at the end of 11:59 p.m. or divvying it up into even tinier segments of time throughout the day.

But the opposition will have to wait for another year to mount their case against the leap second. For now, start thinking about how you can best use the extra time today.

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History
When Chuck Yeager Tweeted Details About His Historic, Sound Barrier-Breaking Flight

Seventy years ago today—on October 14, 1947—Charles Elwood Yeager became the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. The Air Force pilot broke the sound barrier in an experimental X-1 rocket plane (nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis”) over a California dry lake at an altitude of 25,000 feet.

In 2015, the nonagenarian posted a few details on Twitter surrounding the anniversary of the achievement, giving amazing insight into the history-making flight.

For even more on the historic ride, check out the video below.

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Mrs. John Herschel, Wikimedia Commons
8 Stellar Facts About the Most Accomplished Female Astronomer You’ve Never Heard Of
Mrs. John Herschel, Wikimedia Commons
Mrs. John Herschel, Wikimedia Commons

Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) was a German woman who made great contributions to science and astronomy. 

1. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO DISCOVER A COMET.

Herschel spotted the comet (called 35P/Herschel-Rigollet) in December of 1788. Because its orbital period is 155 years, 35P/Herschel-Rigollet will next be visible to humans in the year 2092.

2. SHE INITIALLY WORKED AS A HOUSEKEEPER.

In her early twenties, Herschel moved from Germany to England to be a singer. Her brother William (the astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus and infrared radiation) gave her singing lessons, and she was his housekeeper. She later became his assistant, grinding and polishing the mirrors for his telescopes.

3. BUT SHE LATER TURNED HER REAL PASSION INTO A PAYING GIG.

Herschel was the first female scientist to ever be paid for her work. Starting in 1787, King George III paid her £50 per year to reward her for her scientific discoveries.

4. SHE WAS TECHNICALLY A LITTLE PERSON.

Herschel was only 4 feet 3 inches tall—her growth was stunted due to typhus when she was 10 years old.

5. SHE BROKE BARRIERS, EARNING RESPECT FROM THE HERETOFORE MALE-ONLY SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY.

Herschel was the first woman to receive a Gold Medal from London’s Royal Astronomical Society, in 1828. The second woman to receive one was well over 150 years later, in 1996.

6. SHE CHEATED AT MATH ... KIND OF.

Because Herschel was female and thus wasn’t allowed to learn math as a child, she used a cheat sheet with the multiplication tables on it when she was working.

7. EARTH'S MOON HONORS HER LEGACY.

By NASA / LRO_LROC_TEAM [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A crater on the moon is named in honor of Herschel—it’s called C. Herschel. The small crater is located on the west side of Mare Imbrium, one of the moon's large rocky plains.

8. SHE GARNERED AWARDS WELL INTO HER NINETIES.

For her 96th birthday, Prussian King Frederick William IV authorized that Herschel receive an award: the Gold Medal for Science.

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