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extremely geeky  extremely geeky

Case 166

Tempus Fugit

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The Clan of Iron Bones had just applied the most recent upgrades to the Temple’s servers. After examining some files in /usr/include, host master Yishi-Shing shook his head.

A monk noticed and asked, “Master, do you see some cause for concern?”

Yishi-Shing said, “The type time_t, by which the current system time is obtained, has been declared as a signed long—a mere sixty-four bits.”

Puzzled, the monk started the abacus app on his tablet and rapidly flicked the beads. “Such a number is capable of representing roughly two-hundred-and-ninety-two billion years, forward or backward,” said the monk.

“And this does not trouble you?” asked Yishi-Shing. “Existence itself will cease in a countable number of seconds, and even the makers of our operating system taunt us with this fact!”

The monk considered a moment and said: “Not long ago time_t was only thirty-two bits—incapable of tallying as little as two centuries. The type was expanded with only decades remaining before the Universe’s expiration. I surmise that, sometime near the end of the next two-hundred-and-ninety-two billion years, we will receive another patch.”

The master was comforted.

* It is interesting to note that current physics predicts the heat death of the Universe in no less than 10^100 years, with a subsequent Big Bang arising perhaps in another 10^(10^56) years. This means that in order to display our uptime in seconds right before rebooting the Universe, we would need time_t to have (3.32e56 + 30) bits. Since planet Earth only has about 1.33e50 atoms to play with, we’d need about 2.5 million Earths (or roughly one G-type main-sequence star) to build a simple register alone. Now, where can we get a G-type star? Hmmmmm...