It’s Tick Tock Day – one last chance to make it big in 2012

And so another year is almost done and dusted; it’s 29 December – after today there will be only 2 more days to go before 2013 arrives. That time of year when you start seriously contemplating everything you thought you were going to do and achieve this year. And of course with this comes the regrets of all the opportunities missed, all the targets not achieved…

Well, today is Tick Tock Day – especially created to give you one last chance to pick some of those goals that have not been realised; to see if you cannot cram one or two more achievements into the year before everything starts over again with a new set of resolutions.

Keep one eye on the clock, and get a move-on with those 2012 resolutions!(© All Rights Reserved)
Keep one eye on the clock, and get a move-on with those 2012 resolutions!
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Think about it this way – after today you have 2 more days to your disposal. That’s 48 hours. Or 2880 minutes. Or if you prefer, 172 800 seconds. That’s hundreds of thousands of seconds! Imagine how much you can achieve in that time!

But you better hurry – time is ticking… Tick tock, tick tock… 🙂

Location, location, location (and time) – it’s GIS Day

November 14th is GIS Day, an annual event focusing attention on the field of Geographic Information Systems, its use and potential to impact on our lives.

GIS Day started in 1999 to create an opportunity for people to learn about geography and to discover and explore the benefits of GIS.

Spatially mapping your data enables you to identify trends and relationships that might not otherwise be apparent.
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So what exactly is GIS? According to Esri, one of the leading international developers and vendors in the field of GIS, “A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.”

Or, as Wikipedia puts it: “In the simplest terms, GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology.”

Spatially visualising information has many benefits. GIS enables us to map where things are and in what quantities and densities they are distributed. Modern GIS tools also allow us to map and visualise changes in these quantities over time. By seeing how various fields of data are dispersed geographically, and how they are changing, it is often possible to identify trends and relationships that might not otherwise be apparent.

This in turn leads to better decision making and improved communication.

GIS is a pervasive supporting technology throughout all aspects of modern society, with applications in business (banking, retail, etc), law enforcement, health, transportation, environmental systems, conservation, agriculture, forestry, mining, telecommunications, utilities management, research and education.

Capturing spatio-temporal location is key to GIS.
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A GIS can typically employ and integrate data from a huge range of sources, as long as it has some key through which to relate it to the other data in the system. This key is spatio-temporal location – you need to know the location and time represented by the data. To map climate change, for example, you would include information on temperature and rainfall. But just having a list of temperatures and rainfall figures means nothing – to make it useful, you need some indicator of where and when each value was measured.

By promoting an understanding of this simple basic concept – that you massively increase the value and usefulness of any set of data by recording and including the spatio-temporal location of each data item – time and money spent on data collecting efforts can be leveraged so much more effectively.

Are you involved in data collection? Know someone who is? Even if space and time appear unimportant, record it anyway. Who knows – you may just discover something no-one’s thought of before…

Scoring an extra second on Leap Second Adjustment Day

Have you ever felt that time is slipping away from you? Well, then you’ll be happy to know that today is Leap Second Adjustment Day, a day when time will be held back for a second, with an extra second being inserted into the atomic time scale at midnight, June 30 UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time). This time corresponds to noon, July 1 in New Zealand. To mark this moment, Radio New Zealand listeners will hear an extra time ‘pip’ before the midday news bulletin.

Today time will be held back for a second, to compensate for the slowing rotation of the earth.
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The rotation of the earth is gradually slowing down, effectively resulting in our days becoming fractionally longer. Hence the adjustment is required to prevent the atomic clocks from moving ahead of solar time. Leap second adjustment was introduced for the first time in 1972. It does not happen every year, with the decision being made by the International Earth Rotation Service, based on data collected from observatories around the world. Leap second adjustment has been done 24 times over the past 40 years.

In earlier times, time was measured by the position of the sun and stars in relation to the earth, so the slight slowing of the rotation of the earth was automatically accommodated for. However, since time measurement has changed to atomic time, which uses the pulsations of the atoms of the chemical element caesium, time measurement has become, weirdly enough, too accurate. Time can now be measured down to 10 billionths of a second, and only one atomic second is lost every 300 million years, so to keep time in sync with the slightly irregular movements of our solar system, its necessary to make an adjustment every now and then.

When the leap second is added, the atomic clocks will not go from 11:59:59 directly to 12:00:00, but rather to 11:59:60, and then 12:00:00. As a result, the day on which the leap second is inserted has 86,401 seconds, instead of the usual 86,400.

Hmmm, wonder what I’m going to do with all this extra time!?