Second Guessing A Penny, An Essay by Bryan Costales

Second Guessing A Penny
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Much angst surrounded a recent debate about whether or not 2005's should be the very last leap second ever. But why so much to-do about nothing?

Take a moment to wander around your home. Look at all the clocks you have. You may already have looked in response to the recent change from Daylight Saving Time (called Summer Time in Europe). Notice first that clocks are everywhere --on the microwave, on the oven, on the telephone, on your cellphone, even on some refrigerators and toasters. Notice also that all the modern digital clocks lack seconds.

While wandering did you also notice a penny jar on your dresser? Or at least a change jar somewhere in the house?

Almost all small stores in the States have adopted a penny tray by the register (Europe lags behind in this regard). You place into the tray any pennies you received in change. The next customer may need a penny or two to round out a purchase, and can take them from the tray. (In some neighborhoods, I have noticed nickels and dimes in the penny tray too, but that is off topic.)

Pennies are becoming more and more worthless. A gum ball from a machine now costs a quarter ($US 0.25). Things that used to cost a penny each, no longer exist. Pennies are beginning to seem like trash. Who wants to carry around pennies in a purse or pocket? Better to saddle the next person with your worthless trash.

Seconds are beginning to follow the example of the penny. When was the last time a second mattered to you? Sure seconds matter in races and competitions, but that is why we have stop watches. Sure seconds matter when counting down to a launch, but how often do you launch rockets?

Have you noticed that children "dial" phones, but have never seen a phone with a dial? Have you noticed that children call CDs "records"?

Slowly and stealthily, digital clocks are eliminating seconds from our daily consciousness. What's going to happen when children never experience time passing in seconds. What's going to happen when the only clocks they ever see show only hours and minutes? How long is a minute, you might ask. Well, its... one, of course.

"How many pennies can you count in sixty seconds?" you ask your daughter.

"What's a penny?" she frowns. "What's a second?"


© 2005 Bryan Costales Creative Commons License #Bryan_Costales
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