Time is literally flying faster than ever, and scientists are not sure why.
The shortest day ever was observed by scientists at the National Physical Laboratory in England on June 29, three days after another one broke the record, according to Popular Mechanics.
A typical day lasts 24 hours or 86,400 seconds. However, the Earth’s rotation has sped up recently, shortening some days by a few milliseconds, according to The Guardian.
On June 29, the Earth rotated 1.59 milliseconds shorter than usual, recording the shortest day since the 1960s when scientists began using atomic clocks to measure time, Forbes reported.
July 26, however, was 1.50 milliseconds shorter than usual, coming up second in the records.
Leonid Zotov, a scientist who works for Lomonosov Moscow State University, told CBS News that the Earth has started to accelerate since 2016, but the past two years saw the fastest rotations recorded in history.
Though experts are not sure why the Earth is spinning faster, Zotov and his colleagues believe that such fluctuations are caused by the Earth’s tides.
Although not every day is getting shorter, he claims that atomic time, which is how time is measured everywhere on Earth, may need to alter if the trend continues.
Some researchers even suggest adding a negative leap second, which would cause clocks to advance by one second.
“Since we can not change the clock arrows attached to the Earth’s rotation, we adjust the atomic clock scale,” he explained.
Others, however, oppose such changes. Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi, a researcher, posted a blog in support of preventing the introduction of leap seconds in the future.
“Negative leap second handling is supported for a long time and companies like Meta often run simulations of this event,” they told CBS News. “However, it has never been verified on a large scale and will likely lead to unpredictable and devastating outages across the world.”
Introduced in 1972, the concept mainly “benefits scientists and astronomers as it allows them to observe celestial bodies using UTC [Coordinated Universal Time] for most purposes,” they wrote in the blog post.
“Introducing new leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we believe it is time to introduce new technologies to replace it,” they added.
They contend that a negative leap second would be worse since it would produce a time jump that could result in IT programmes breaking or even data corruption.
“The impact of a negative leap second has never been tested on a large scale; it could have a devastating effect on the software relying on timers or schedulers,” they write.
“In any case, every leap second is a major source of pain for people who manage hardware infrastructures.”
The pair believe that the ongoing melting and refreezing of the ice caps on the world’s biggest mountains may be one of many reasons causing the Earth to spin faster.
“It is all about the law of conservation of momentum that applies to our planet Earth. Every atom on the planet contributes to the momentum of the earth’s angular velocity based on the distance to the rotation axis of the earth,” Obleukhov and Byagowi added to CBS News.
“So, once things move around, the angular velocity of the earth can vary.”
The latest findings, scientists believe, could indicate the beginning of a new period of shorter days, Interesting Engineering reported.