Leading article: The whirligig of time

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Time, as the proverb goes, "waits for no man". Which makes it a bit of a shock to find out that the earthquake in Chile has actually speeded up time by altering the Earth's tilt on its axis. It's even more of a shock when you realise that time is actually slowing up over time, as it were, as the world has been going round a little bit slower over the last few million years. Admittedly we're not talking big numbers here. The Chilean earthquake has shortened the day by only around 1.26 millionths of a second.

But it's the principle of the thing. Here we are, mere mortals, thinking time was a constant and we had to adjust to it. And there, out there in nature's realm, there are trends slowing it down and events speeding it up. What's more we learn that, every so often, they alter the atomic clocks by which all things are run these days by a "leap second" to make them fit with nature's errant ways.

Time to take time out, we would say. If the world is slowing down, so should we.

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