Leading scientists from around the world are meeting in Britain from Thursday to consider a proposal that could eventually see Greenwich Mean Time relegated to a footnote in history.
For more than 120 years GMT has been the international standard for timekeeping, but it is now under threat from a new definition of time itself based not on the rotation of the Earth, but on atomic clocks. In January 2012, the International Telecommunication Union will meet in Geneva to vote on whether to adopt the new measure, despite protests from Britain.
The two-day meeting of about 50 experts at a country house northwest of London, under the aegis of the prestigious Royal Society, on Thursday and Friday will look at some of the issues involved. Predictably the question has hurt Britain’s national pride — particularly when British believe their old rivals France are leading the push to change away from GMT to the new time standard.
“We understand that in Britain they have a sense of loss for GMT,” said Elisa Felicitas Arias, director of the time department at the France-based International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), which pushed for the change.