Many thanks to Hanzík for the Czech translations!

extremely geeky  extremely geeky

Case 166

Tempus Fugit

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...