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bug#26164: time-difference mishandles leap seconds

From: Mark H Weaver
Subject: bug#26164: time-difference mishandles leap seconds
Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2018 18:56:54 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/26.1 (gnu/linux)

Zefram <address@hidden> writes:

> Computing the duration of the period between two UTC times, using
> SRFI-19 mechanisms:
> scheme@(guile-user)> (use-modules (srfi srfi-19))
> scheme@(guile-user)> (define t0 (date->time-utc (make-date 0 59 59 23 30 6 
> 2012 0))) 
> scheme@(guile-user)> (define t1 (date->time-utc (make-date 0 1 0 0 1 7 2012 
> 0)))
> scheme@(guile-user)> (time-difference t1 t0)
> $1 = #<time type: time-duration nanosecond: 0 second: 2>
> The two times are 2012-06-30T23:59:59 and 2012-07-01T00:00:01, so at
> first glance one would expect the duration to be 2 s as shown above,
> the two seconds being 23:59:59 and 00:00:00.  But in fact there was
> a leap second 2012-06-30T23:59:60, so the duration of this period is
> actually 3 s.

You seem to be assuming that SRFI-19 durations should _always_ represent
intervals of TAI time.  While I agree that TAI time is often the right
choice for durations, there are other cases where monotonic time is a
better choice.  Currently, monotonic time == TAI time, but SRFI-19 makes
it clear that this needn't be the case, and at some point we might want
to change monotonic time to be _truly_ monotonic, even in cases where
the system clock jumps backward.

Durations in UTC time have uses as well.  For example, every UTC day has
exactly 86400 UTC seconds, so (make-time time-duration 0 86400) means 1
UTC day, when added to a UTC time.  This is a duration that, when added
to any UTC time, always leaves the time-of-day unchanged.  There is no
fixed duration of TAI time that has this property, because not all UTC
days have the same number of TAI seconds.

> [...]  Since 1972, the seconds of UTC are of exactly
> the same duration as the seconds of TAI.  (They're also phase-locked to
> TAI seconds.)  Thus the period of three TAI seconds is also a period of
> three UTC seconds.  It is not somehow squeezed into two UTC seconds.

I believe you are mistaken here.  Not all UTC seconds have the same
duration as a TAI second.  Some TAI seconds correspond to 0 UTC seconds,
and maybe some day there will be a TAI second that corresponds to 2 UTC

Having said all of this, I should admit that I'm not an expert on time
standards, so perhaps I've misunderstood something.

What do you think?


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