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Plan to Redefine the Kilogram 2011-01-24

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Europe, Science.
Tags: , , , , , ,

In a laboratory vault outside Paris is a small cylinder of platinum–iridium alloy that serves as the standard for all mass measurements worldwide. By an 1889 international accord, the mass of this metal cylinder defines the kilogram.

But that may soon change. The kilogram is the only unit of measurement still based on a man-made artefact; a second of time, for instance, is now defined in terms of an electron transition of the caesium atom, and the metre is tied to the speed of light. Those standards are universal and unchanging — unlike the official kilogram. The reference cylinder’s mass has drifted slightly through the years—not enough to throw off your bathroom scale, but enough to bother measurement scientists.

Some of them are meeting 2011-01-24 at The Royal Society in London to discuss future improvements to the measurement units.

The plan is to eventually relate the kilogram to a universal number known as Planck’s constant. However, the technology needed to do that is not yet fully developed. So, for the time being, that little metal cylinder outside Paris will just have to keep pulling its weight. I mean, mass.


1. Monex - 2011-02-08

In Paris scientists polished and weighed it carefully until they determined that it was exactly one kilogram around 2.2 pounds. Since 1889 the year the Eiffel Tower opened that cylinder has been the standard against which every other kilogram on the planet has been judged.

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