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Saint-Sauveur-en-Rue, France

Quinn T.,BIPM
Metrologia | Year: 2011

Since 1954 when the definition of the second first came under the authority of the intergovernmental organization of the Metre Convention, the range and complexity of time metrology have increased far beyond anything envisaged in those days. Today, the essential international coordination of this domain of metrology is through the organs of the Convention with the exception of the definition of Coordinated Universal Time, UTC. In this short article I suggest that this also should now come under the authority of the Metre Convention. © 2011 BIPM & IOP Publishing Ltd.


Quinn T.,BIPM
Proceedings of the International School of Physics "Enrico Fermi" | Year: 2013

This article outlines the origins and history of the Metre Convention, the BIPM and the International System of Units (SI), with particular reference to the historical development of units based on fundamental constants or invariants of nature. In the past, the ideas and the intention to proceed towards a unit system based on invariants of nature had existed but it has only recently become a practical possibility. The adoption by the 24th General Conference on Weights and Measures in October 2011 of a Resolution outlining the principles of such a system is the culmination of more than two hundred years of advances in physics and metrology. © Società Italiana di Fisica.


News Article
Site: www.nature.com

A leap second is gone in the blink of an eye. But a long-awaited decision on whether to ditch these occasional time insertions — which ensure that official time is synced with Earth’s rotation — has been delayed for at least eight years. After representatives who gathered this month at the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva, Switzerland failed to agree on whether the costs of the leap second outweigh its benefits, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced that it would defer a decision until 2023, when it will have more information on the impacts of getting rid of the leap second. The union did, however, make a decision that could shift the responsibility of defining the official Coordinated Universal Time (utc) — and in turn the leap second — to the body that is already responsible for defining the second, along with the other SI units. Leap seconds are necessary because Earth’s rotation is slowing in an unpredictable way. Without them, the time of day when the Sun is at the highest point in the sky would drift by about one minute over about 100 years. However, these extra seconds have to be programmed into electronic systems manually and can upset systems that depend on accurate timings. Most countries, including China, the United States and many in Europe, favour scrapping the leap second and basing utc on the continuous tick of atomic clocks. Official time would slowly move out of sync with Earth’s rotation, but — given that it would take thousands of years to accumulate a difference that is greater than the kinds of shifts already caused by changing the clocks backwards and forwards for daylight savings time — many argue that this would cause few problems. “If we have an offset from solar time, it is not extremely important,” says Elisa Felicitas Arias, director of the Time Department at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sèvres, France, who wants to scrap the leap second. “We are already shifted by one hour in summer compared to winter time. Are we affected because of that?" Once the drift is appreciable, the argument goes, a correction could be added much further down the line, perhaps by adding a leap minute or hour. A small number of countries however, including Russia and the United Kingdom, want to keep the leap second. Russia is concerned about how GLONASS, its Global Navigation System — the only one to incorporate leap seconds — would cope, says Vincent Meens, from France’s National Centre for Space Studies, and the chair of the ITU subgroup tasked with debating the topic. Britain’s argument is largely based on the desire to keep a link between official time and Earth’s rotation, says Peter Whibberley, a metrologist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, UK. Astronomers are among those who would be affected if the leap second were scrapped. Their software would need to cope with Earth's rotational time — which defines when stars and galaxies are seen in the sky — being offset by more than a second from universal time, says Meens. Historically, the ITU has borne responsibility for the definition of utc, through an international treaty that also governs how nations share radiowaves. But at the Geneva conference, the ITU announced that it would modify the treaty. Rather than having a stand-alone definition of utc, the treaty will only cite an SI definition — and mention of the leap second will be moved from the utc definition-proper to a mere ‘description’ in a subsidiary resolution, which expires in 2023. Whibberley says that that the biggest effect of these seemingly subtle changes will be to remove responsibility for defining UTC, and therefore the leap second from the ITU. The General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), which already has ultimate responsibility for defining SI units, including the second, is most likely to become the authority in the future, he adds. BIPM, a subsidiary of the CGPM, is responsible for generating International Atomic Time, on which utc is based, from the results of 500 clocks distributed around the world. “In effect, therefore, the BIPM will ‘own’ the definition of utc," says Whibberley, "even if there is no formal process to transfer responsibility.” The CGPM's involvement is unlikely to mean a decision on whether to scrap the leap second will come sooner than 2023, however: the organization's next chance to even propose a change would not come until 2018.


Quinn T.,BIPM
CPEM Digest (Conference on Precision Electromagnetic Measurements) | Year: 2012

This paper outlines the origins and history of the International System of Units with particular reference to the historical development of units based on fundamental constants or invariants of nature. In the past, the ideas and the intention to proceed towards a unit system based on invariants of nature had existed but it has only recently become a practical possibility. The adoption by the 24th General Conference on Weights and Measures of a Resolution outlining the principles of such a system is the culmination of more than two hundred years of advances in physics and metrology © 2012 IEEE.


Petit G.,BIPM | Kanj A.,BIPM | Kanj A.,French National Center for Space Studies | Loyer S.,Collecte Localisation Satellites | And 3 more authors.
Metrologia | Year: 2015

For many years, the time community has been using the precise point positioning (PPP) technique which uses GPS phase and code observations to compute time and frequency links. However, progress in atomic clocks implies that the performance of PPP frequency comparisons is a limiting factor in comparing the best frequency standards. We show that a PPP technique where the integer nature of phase ambiguities is preserved consitutes significant improvement of the classical use of floating ambiguities. We demonstrate that this integer-PPP technique allows frequency comparisons with 1 × 10-16 accuracy in a few days and can be readily operated with existing products. © 2015 BIPM & IOP Publishing Ltd.

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