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Nuclear Crisis Stopped Time In Japan 188

Posted by timothy
from the now-ramen-twists-the-other-way dept.
angry tapir writes "The problems at Japan's Fukushima-1 nuclear plant have had an unexpected impact on the country's ability to keep time: a transmitter that sends the national time signal to many thousands of clocks and watches has been forced offline making the timepieces a little less reliable than usual."
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Nuclear Crisis Stopped Time In Japan

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  • Worst headline ever. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:12AM (#35664278)

    Not only did time not stop, but the clocks didn't even stop. They just aren't being synchronized anymore. Oh no!

    • by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:51AM (#35664672)

      Not only did time not stop, but the clocks didn't even stop. They just aren't being synchronized anymore. Oh no!

      In Japan, a country that considers a train late if it arrives more than 20 seconds later than scheduled, that's pretty bad.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by frozentier (1542099)
        I have a hunch that their perspective has changed somewhat in the past month or so.
        • by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:28AM (#35664872)

          I have a hunch that their perspective has changed somewhat in the past month or so.

          Perspective on what? Time?

          I really doubt it. If anything, the near-perfect organisation of Japan has saved countless lives.

          • by Svartalf (2997)

            I think that they meant that they're just a bit less concerned with trains being 20 seconds behind as "late".

            • by xaxa (988988)

              I think that they meant that they're just a bit less concerned with trains being 20 seconds behind as "late".

              I doubt this will be an issue for months (as clocks won't have lost 20 seconds already), but on a very busy railway line a single train being a minute or two late can cause trains on other routes to be late, and that causes other trains to be late, etc.

              (e.g. a train in a platform is delayed, so the following train can't use the platform and must wait on the main line. In the mean time, the express train that's supposed to pass it on the passing line can't, as the way is blocked. The express train is delayed

          • by rubycodez (864176) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:50AM (#35666070)
            I really doubt it. If anything, the near-perfect organisation of Japan has saved countless lives.

            With tens of thousands of suicides a year, I think not. Another example of a modern society self-driven to neurosis.
            The WHO even disputes Japan's definition of suicide that makes the reported numbers an estimated three times lower.
            • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @10:32AM (#35666528) Homepage Journal

              THANK YOU. Last time I pointed out Japan's high suicide rate I was modded down. It's real, and it's a real consequence of a high-pressure lifestyle. Japan is to life what Survivor is to television. The weakest links get voted off the island... forcibly. Emotional and mental abuse are real kinds of abuse.

          • If anything, the near-perfect organisation of Japan has saved countless lives.

            You gotta be kidding. Or are you talking about some Anime Japan and not the real thing?

            If anything, the authorities were caught completely flat-footed and are still scrambling. People in many areas were left for days to their own devices with no official response anywhere in sight.

            Confusion, incompetence, constant cover-ups, unresponsiveness, nepotism ... those are the defining characteristics of Japan's bureaucracy, be it gove

            • If anything, the authorities were caught completely flat-footed and are still scrambling. People in many areas were left for days to their own devices with no official response anywhere in sight.

              Like the US after Katrina.

              Did we export the head of FEMA to Japan?

              • by Teancum (67324)

                Japan doesn't have the federalized system of government like exists in America with dual sovereignty and a federal government that literally can't act until after the state government gets its act together. Katrina was a royal screw up of the Louisiana government (not to mention New Orleans itself was in total chaos effectively without a government after Katrina), but that fact was lost on most international news media.

                FEMA, after Katrina, acted about as fast as it was legally permitted to act. That Louis

      • by Ender_Wiggin (180793) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:08AM (#35664764)

        You mean if I don't synchronize my clock with the atomic clock more than every few days, it will be more than 20 seconds off?

        Most wristwatches I've owned have a disclaimer in the manual that they keep time with a margin of error ±15 seconds per month. Those are the cheap Casios. I'm sure TV stations etc. have a better clock than me.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@world3. n e t> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:26AM (#35664860) Homepage

          Indeed, due to reception issues it would be highly unwise to rely on a radio time broadcast for accuracy in important situations. You can have a mix of time sources (GPS, NTP, RDS etc.) but basically you need a reasonably accurate clock for when they are unavailable. Fortunately modules with better than 10 seconds/month are extremely cheap.

          I got back from Japan on Sunday, there did not seem to be any time related problems. I didn't even know about it until this story.

          • You can get down into the hundreds of nanoseconds accuracy with GPS. Radio clocks aren't that good, WWVB is only accurate to a millisecond or so in good propagation conditions. Shortwave is even less predictable. Still, good enough for "household" use.

            I live in California, and my WWVB signal is marginal, so my radio clocks only sync up onc a week or so. Still, they are accurate to within a fraction of a second. I can get still better with NTP.

             

      • by amaupin (721551)

        In Japan, a country that considers a train late if it arrives more than 20 seconds later than scheduled ...

        As someone who lived in Japan for 7 years, HA HA HA. Right. Trains are mostly timely but arrival times vary widely from published schedules, frequently by multiple minutes.

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      Actually I liked the headline. It made me think immediately of some sort of plot for a Japanese Anime series that obviously featured cyborgs disguised as hot school girls.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:15AM (#35664286)

    Very sorry for being 28 picoseconds late! The radioactive Caesium in the air put out my atomic clock

  • by georgesdev (1987622) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:18AM (#35664306)
    Ô temps ! suspends ton vol...
    -- French poem by Lamartine http://astronad.voila.net/Lamartine.htm [voila.net]
  • And? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mirix (1649853) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:19AM (#35664310)

    Good thing there is still GPS, NTP, etc.

    Worst case a few clocks have to fall back to quartz and lose a couple seconds a day, no?

    • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mcvos (645701) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:23AM (#35664842)

      Good thing there is still GPS, NTP, etc.

      That's what I've been wondering. With constant GPS signal all over the place, what do we need land-based atomic clock synchronisation for?

      • by Onuma (947856)
        Redundancy.

        You put all of your eggs in one basket, and sooner or later that basket is going to be wiped out by a tsunami/quake.
        • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:54AM (#35664982) Homepage

          That's what I've been wondering. With constant GPS signal all over the place, what do we need land-based atomic clock synchronisation for?

          You put all of your eggs in one basket, and sooner or later that basket is going to be wiped out by a tsunami/quake.

          If a tsunami or quake takes out GPS satellites in orbit 20km above the surface of the Earth I think accurate time-keeping will be the least of anyone's worries.

          • by roman_mir (125474)

            If a tsunami or quake takes out GPS satellites in orbit 20km above the surface of the Earth I think accurate time-keeping will be the least of anyone's worries.

            - well actually, if that happen I would know what to be mostly suprised about - a 20km tsunami wave or a falling GPS satellite.

          • Of course, the disaster that takes out satelites would be a different one, like a solar flail, or some man made jamming.

          • If a tsunami or quake takes out GPS satellites in orbit 20km above the surface of the Earth I think accurate time-keeping will be the least of anyone's worries.

            20km? I've got news for you - we have airplanes that fly that high.

            GPS is a wee bit higher than 20km above the Earth's surface. Try 20000 km above the Earth's surface instead.

        • by mcvos (645701)

          Just launch some extra GPS satelites then. If one of them is taken out by a 20 million meter high tsunami, at least we'll have some backups.

      • by necro81 (917438)
        One person mentioned redundancy, and that's the primary reason. Imagine this scenario: the GPS and NTP systems go offline (solar flare, alien invasion, whatever). This would obviously cause many problems, but clock synchronization is unlikely to be one of them. And so, in this hypothetical situation, we could see someone mention on Slashdot:

        Good thing there is still atomic-clock synchronization over radio

        The other reason why this radio-based synchronization signal is good to keep around is because it i

      • The GPS satellites use these time signals from these atomic clocks to sych. Your little wrist watch could be off by 10 seconds and you would not even notice. The GPS satellites need to by synched with each other correct to ten billionth of a second. GPS receivers triangulate using the phase difference between the signals transmitted by the satellites. If any one satellite is off by 1.0e-08 sec, the distance calculation will be off by 10 feet.
        • by mcvos (645701)

          The GPS satellites use these time signals from these atomic clocks to sych.

          GPS satellites each have their own atomic clock. They don't depend on land-based clocks as far as I know.

          • I did not know that. Thanks for the information. Times like these, I wish I could retract my original posting. Some kind soul, please mod my OP down. Thanks.
            • by mcvos (645701)

              I hope you've seen that I'm actually wrong about them not depending on land-based clocks at all. They all do have their own atomic clock, but due to relativistic effects, they're not accurate enough. So they still need to be synced regularly, also with data on the exact orbit they're in.

      • I don't have GPS signal in my bedroom. DCF77 [wikipedia.org] on the other hand, is reliable.

      • GPS doesn't reach indoor very well. Hard to sync the kitchen clock that way
      • That's what I've been wondering. With constant GPS signal all over the place, what do we need land-based atomic clock synchronisation for?

        Cost. Clocks that sync to LF signals (WWVB, DCF77, JJY, etc.) are based on cheap off-the-shelf chipsets. GPS sync costs an order of magnitude more.

        Availability. GPS needs to see the sky. It doesn't work very well (if at all) inside buildings. LF time signals do.

        ...laura

    • Good thing there is still GPS, NTP, etc.

      Good thing GPS is still useful for something there. All the recent land surveys done there via GPS are all off by 8 feet or so now.

  • by slyborg (524607) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:19AM (#35664312)

    I know it's late, and I think this may have been intended as humorous, but really, guys? Has it come to this?

  • by n1hilist (997601) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:20AM (#35664318)

    It was Hiro!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Nuclear Crisis Stopped" is not a good way to lead off a story on Japan.

    My short attention span plays horrible games with me.

  • A man with two watches, is never sure.

    I guess a man in Japan with a radio signal watch has no clue right now.

    have too many damn things in my apartment to change when daylight saving time hits. The coffee machine, the microwave, the clock on the wall, my stereo system main power supply . . . etc . . .

    • It doesn't matter how many watches you have. You never really know the time without a sextant, a spirit level, an almanac, and a clear sky.

    • by Abstrackt (609015)
      One day I got so sick of changing all the clocks that didn't change themselves I just set them all to UTC left them alone. Quickly converting to local time took a bit of practice but I still think it was worth it.
    • by anethema (99553)
      Atomic syncing clocks are fantastic.

      Without the signal they simply use their quartz timing. If you think the clocks are simply displaying some received signal for time,that isn't how it works. They have a clue.

      My Casio Pathfinder is always accurate to within a good deal less than a second, and the face is a solar panel so it keeps itself charged.

      I wouldn't have it any other way.
  • Media idiocy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VendettaMF (629699) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:06AM (#35664486) Homepage

    This is about as accurate, realistic, rational and un-hyped a headline as here has yet been regarding the entire nuclear incident...

    • Wait until the follow up when they add or subtract the necessary motes of time to re-sync the national time signal. It will be either

      Japan time travels to the past
      or
      Japan returns Back to the Future

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:12AM (#35664510)

    I suppose this means any Simpsons episodes that don't display the correct time on their clocks will have to be banned.

    And don't get me started on those times when the Bart and Lisa are late for school!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And don't get me started on those times when the Bart and Lisa are late for school!

      Yes! We have to ban every episode showing schools. Many Japanese children don't even have a school anymore!

  • by dido (9125) <dido@@@imperium...ph> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:25AM (#35664552)

    I thought we should have no fear for atomic energy, mon, cause they could not stop de time!

  • by Pesticidal (1148911) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:34AM (#35664598)
    So I RTFA and am left wondering why the engineers needed to power down the transmitter just because they were forced to abandon it. I would have presumed it would be controlled by computers and not rely on humans regularly hitting a button LOST-style. Also, I presume the differences in transmission frequency between the two halves of Japan is related to the separate power mains frequencies?
    • by Shikaku (1129753)

      This video has the answer to all your questions about this incident: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7e0777z7AY [youtube.com]

    • Probably because of regulatory constraints that require an engineer at the transmitter's control point (where the transmitter can be turned off quickly) in case something goes wrong with the transmitter. It could also be a safety issue, since the transmitter may have high voltage amplifiers that may catch fire if left unattended.

      • the transmitter may have high voltage amplifiers that may catch fire if left unattended.

        TRANSMITTER: "Is it me or is it getting warm in here/"
        ENGINEER: "Cut that out! Don't try that stunt again!"
        TRANSMITTER: (Lights dim slightly) "OK, but just you wait!"

        Could happen, I suppose.

    • Those things don't just wind themselves, you know. Keeping all those superstrings under tension is a major job.

      This post may have been brought to you by someone whose physics is a bit pre-Newtonian.

    • by herojig (1625143)
      Yea, a LOST reference. Much more interesting then the rest of this blather...
    • by jittles (1613415)
      It's a nuclear clock! Hello! DO you not see the word nuclear???? They can't afford another melt down in Japan! The whole country is likely to die if they leave that clock left running while unattended! Won't someone think of the children?
  • Call Daniel Faraday ASAP!

  • MS offers the service by default so if u r connected to the internet, your clock self adjusts, or...wait.....that's right....you never use MS for mission critical stuff.....never mind.

  • by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:16AM (#35665686)
    "You Americans have clocks. We have time." - Some random Mexican I asked the time of in Mexico.
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      "You Americans have clocks. We have time." - Some random Mexican I asked the time of in Mexico.

      Proving, once again, that there are dicks in every nation around the world ...

  • ...nuclear crisis stops you.

  • The doctor takes a look at you, the patient, and your insurance status . . . and decides if you are treated, or become Soylent Green. The sales of the Soylent Green would finance the medical system.

    Nurse: "You seem to not like the food here in the hospital?"

    Patient: "No I don't."

    Nurse: "Well do you know what will be served tomorrow? . . . You!"

  • Gee, timothy... write sensationalist headlines much? I realize anything that gets people to click on an article is considered fair on the 'net, but "stops time"?!? Really???
  • So Radioactive. Bubbling Water. Controls Time.

    That's Hot Tub Time Machine!

13. ... r-q1

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