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(Mental Floss)   Who controls the British Crown? Who keeps the metric system down? WE DO. WE DO   (mentalfloss.com) divider line 78
    More: Interesting, fundamental constants, iridiums, NIST, weights and measures  
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6918 clicks; posted to Geek » on 07 Jul 2012 at 1:01 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-07 10:44:46 AM
www.poppowwow.com
 
2012-07-07 01:01:41 PM
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures is also known for rigging every Oscar night.
 
2012-07-07 01:07:34 PM
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures seems like an exciting place to work.
 
2012-07-07 01:11:00 PM

Interrupted Infinitum: The International Bureau of Weights and Measures seems like an exciting place to work.


They're greedy bastards, though.

If you give them 25.4 millimeters, they'll take 1,609.344 meters.
 
2012-07-07 01:13:01 PM
Why is it that only the grand k is losing weight? Shouldn't the other weights also be losing weight?

I think it would be much more likely that the replicas are gaining weight from being handled.

Why not define kilograms by the weight of atoms of some element in a cube measured to some size described by the distance light travels over a certain amount of time?
 
2012-07-07 01:13:06 PM
Who runs barter town?
 
2012-07-07 01:15:59 PM

Interrupted Infinitum: The International Bureau of Weights and Measures seems like an exciting place to work.


Is your job weighing you down?
 
2012-07-07 01:22:01 PM
If we can count the number of atoms in a cube of carbon, why can't we just base a kilogram on the weight of one carbon atom?
 
2012-07-07 01:24:18 PM

almandot: Interrupted Infinitum: The International Bureau of Weights and Measures seems like an exciting place to work.

Is your job weighing you down?


It must have been tough holding that joke in until you found a suitable thread. Telling it must be like a weight off your shoulders.
 
2012-07-07 01:27:02 PM
Why don't we just go back to basing weights on the amount of ale the king's stein holds?
 
2012-07-07 01:27:06 PM

Winning: Why not define kilograms by the weight of atoms of some element in a cube measured to some size described by the distance light travels over a certain amount of time?


Because the number of atoms within that cube will vary depending on lots of other factors, such as the temperature, pressure, oxidation of the surface, etc. It also depends on the packing of the atoms -- the only way to get a reliable, repeatable packing is to have a perfect crystal (which is why some scientists are trying to build a perfect crystal of silicon).

The really stupid thing about this article, though, is the "this is bad news for Metric" slant. How is the Imperial system (or systems, I guess) any better off? IIRC the international standard pound is defined in terms of the kilogram these days.
 
2012-07-07 01:28:43 PM
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures robs cavefish of their sight.
 
2012-07-07 01:39:24 PM
why not define the KG as a number of platinum atoms? that way it is based on a natural constant?
 
2012-07-07 01:39:55 PM

Winning: Why not define kilograms by the weight of atoms of some element in a cube measured to some size described by the distance light travels over a certain amount of time?


IANAMetrologist, but I think the problem with that and other approaches that boil down to "the kg is the mass of 3 squintillion carbon-12 atoms" is that counting out those atoms is functionally impossible. That's why instead of coming up with a number, you take a hunk of pre-existing atoms and say "it's this many" and then try like hell to avoid adding or subtracting any atoms after that.

What you're suggesting is actually how the kg was first defined, after all: 1 kg = the mass of 1 cubic deciliter of water at 4°C. And apparently they're going back in that direction with spherical silicon crystals. But I gather that part of the problem is that we don't even know atomic masses very precisely, relative to how precisely we know other things in physics.
 
2012-07-07 01:44:18 PM
I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."
 
2012-07-07 01:47:24 PM

GF named my left testicle thundercles: why not define the KG as a number of platinum atoms? that way it is based on a natural constant?


How do you know how many platinum atoms you have?

It has to be a specific number of platinum atoms in order to be reproducible. Otherwise you are stuck with "well, it's however many atoms happen to be in this here bar of platinum", and you're back at Square One.

And approaches based on the number of atoms that fit into a specified volume don't work either, for reasons laid out above.
 
2012-07-07 01:47:48 PM

Winning: Why is it that only the grand k is losing weight? Shouldn't the other weights also be losing weight?


Gravity is weakening.
 
2012-07-07 01:49:14 PM

semiotix: But I gather that part of the problem is that we don't even know atomic masses very precisely, relative to how precisely we know other things in physics.


A related problem is that you need to ensure that your reference material is not only pure, but consists of atoms that are all the same isotope (or at least, a fixed ratio of isotopes).
 
2012-07-07 01:51:19 PM
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures holds back the electric car.
 
2012-07-07 02:03:06 PM
Here's the essential problem with mass: we don't have anything that we can readily reproduce that, from fundamental theory, we believe to be a constant representation of that property.

For length, we use the speed of light in a vacuum. Nobody measures the speed of light anymore; we take as proven that it is constant, and therefore use that constant to define length. Similarly, time is defined in terms of a transition of the caesium atom, again taken to be constant.

The only physical system I can think of that, from first principles, has a constant mass is a nonrotating, chargeless black hole of a defined size ("size" here meaning its event horizon). For such a black hole, the mass and the size have an absolute relationship. Practical difficulties of using a black hole as the mass standard are left as an exercise for the reader.
 
2012-07-07 02:10:01 PM
What a worthless article...

"This system sounds absurd, but not too long ago, lots of units relied on similar methods." It sounds absurd because it's not true. Nobody does that.
It's just a novelty. It may have been that way in the XIX century when they had shiat for technology.

Also, we don't define shiat based on the Standards from Paris anymore. We've deduced several formulas for that.

A simple one: 1 cubic decimeter of water at sea level = 1 kilogram.
 
2012-07-07 02:13:50 PM
So Bills fans outside of Africa will finally enjoy a Super Bowl victory?
 
2012-07-07 02:20:57 PM

rocky_howard: What a worthless article...

"This system sounds absurd, but not too long ago, lots of units relied on similar methods." It sounds absurd because it's not true. Nobody does that.
It's just a novelty. It may have been that way in the XIX century when they had shiat for technology.

Also, we don't define shiat based on the Standards from Paris anymore. We've deduced several formulas for that.

A simple one: 1 cubic decimeter of water at sea level = 1 kilogram.


It depends on the temperature of the water too........ and probably how pure the water is.... so I think it's workable. But I'm 100% sure people have suggested this, so why it's not implemented, I don't know.
 
2012-07-07 02:39:26 PM

Obviously, the Higgs-Boson they found was a stray from the Grand K. As the particle is responsible for giving matter weight, and the idiots at the LFC captured it, they've screwed up the Grand K forever.

Thanks, Science!

i.imgur.com
 
2012-07-07 02:40:36 PM
What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
 
2012-07-07 02:42:55 PM

rocky_howard: What a worthless article...

"This system sounds absurd, but not too long ago, lots of units relied on similar methods." It sounds absurd because it's not true. Nobody does that.
It's just a novelty. It may have been that way in the XIX century when they had shiat for technology.

Also, we don't define shiat based on the Standards from Paris anymore. We've deduced several formulas for that.

A simple one: 1 cubic decimeter of water at sea level = 1 kilogram.


Then they'd want you to define what's in the water. Is it pure?
 
2012-07-07 02:43:18 PM

BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."


It's "crown". It rhymes with "down".

Unless it's "clown"........ we're through the looking glass here, people.
 
2012-07-07 02:59:10 PM

czetie: Winning: Why not define kilograms by the weight of atoms of some element in a cube measured to some size described by the distance light travels over a certain amount of time?

Because the number of atoms within that cube will vary depending on lots of other factors, such as the temperature, pressure, oxidation of the surface, etc. It also depends on the packing of the atoms -- the only way to get a reliable, repeatable packing is to have a perfect crystal (which is why some scientists are trying to build a perfect crystal of silicon).

The really stupid thing about this article, though, is the "this is bad news for Metric" slant. How is the Imperial system (or systems, I guess) any better off? IIRC the international standard pound is defined in terms of the kilogram these days.


The international meter was based on the American inch/foot for 83 years, too. This is bad for the "Metric is Wonderful" crowd because it cuts into their smug. Everyone else will continue with their prejudices and not care either way.

/Until you come up with a system where fundamental numbers like Plank's Constant comes up a round number, you are just blowing smoke to say your system is inherently better.
//We are supposed to worship SI rather than metric, anyway.
 
2012-07-07 02:59:41 PM

rocky_howard: What a worthless article...

"This system sounds absurd, but not too long ago, lots of units relied on similar methods." It sounds absurd because it's not true. Nobody does that.
It's just a novelty. It may have been that way in the XIX century when they had shiat for technology.

Also, we don't define shiat based on the Standards from Paris anymore. We've deduced several formulas for that.

A simple one: 1 cubic decimeter of water at sea level = 1 kilogram.


Wow, you better get on the phone with the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. No one there has ever thought of doing this, and certainly they don't have any reason to believe that there are any difficulties in getting sufficient accuracy from that measurement for use in modern science.
 
2012-07-07 03:03:35 PM

CorporateGoon: BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."

It's "crown". It rhymes with "down".

Unless it's "clown"........ we're through the looking glass here, people.


Ever heard of the term "slant rhyme"? There's a definite hard consonant sound at the end of the word being sung.

Also, controlling the British crown isn't much of a brag these days, as the royals are mostly figureheads now. The pound is still a powerful currency, though.
 
2012-07-07 03:07:18 PM
The International Bureau of Weights keeps Atlantis off the maps.
 
2012-07-07 03:13:21 PM
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures greens every Adam Sandler movie.
 
2012-07-07 03:14:13 PM
Unless Mach is haunting a closet at the BIPM, we don't need our standard to be a lump of stuff big enough to see for it to be valuable. If we can find something that is only a fraction of a kilogram, yet a VERY reliable fraction, why not use that? A 12C nucleus weighs exactly 12 amu (well, ok, we rigged it. But we also made up the kilogram). We can weigh that accurately based on electric and magnetic fields which we can bring back to the second (which we know very well) and the speed of light (which we also know very well). 1 amu equals 1.660538921(73)×10−27 kg. So what's the friggin problem?
 
2012-07-07 03:14:15 PM

aerojockey: Wow, you better get on the phone with the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. No one there has ever thought of doing this, and certainly they don't have any reason to believe that there are any difficulties in getting sufficient accuracy from that measurement for use in modern science.


Uh, son, I said it's been known for a long time. Also, like I said, it was a simple way to know how much a kilogram weights, not that the Bureau should use it as the standard.

And I never said the Bureau was dumb, I said MENTAL FLOSS is dumb.
 
2012-07-07 03:20:59 PM

elvisaintdead: [www.poppowwow.com image 300x393]


Eyes went STRAIGHT to the crotch. Not even a second thought. Damn you, sir or ma'am. Damn you.
 
2012-07-07 03:25:21 PM

rocky_howard: What a worthless article...

"This system sounds absurd, but not too long ago, lots of units relied on similar methods." It sounds absurd because it's not true. Nobody does that.
It's just a novelty. It may have been that way in the XIX century when they had shiat for technology.

Also, we don't define shiat based on the Standards from Paris anymore. We've deduced several formulas for that.

A simple one: 1 cubic decimeter of water at sea level = 1 kilogram.


Atmospheric pressure is not constant, even at sea level. And, density of water varies with ambient pressure.
Second, water itself doesn't have a constant mass. There are different isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen which can affect the weight of the molecules by a significant margin. Now, molecules with these other isotopes are rare, but when losing 0.05mg from 1kg is significant, these margins of error with water make it useless for the level of precision demanded today.
 
2012-07-07 03:37:49 PM
Ok, a little metrology lesson here for some of you wondering why we don't just go back to the 1790 defintion of the gram as the mass of 1 cubic centimeter of water.

For modern science, we would like to be able to measure units with enough precision to discern differences in 1 part per billion. So, for example, we'd need a test that can discern a 1 microgram difference in a 1 kilogram mass.

Furthermore, this has to be reproduceable in labs across the world. If two labs perform a measurement, the result they get has to have be the same for at least nine digits. The labs have to be able to do this consistently; if they can't it's not a suitable definition of the unit.

Unfortunately, most of the simple techniques for measuring mass in terms of physical constants have an accuracy of only around 1 part per million. Defining mass in terms of quantity of water is even worse: I doubt you could get more than 5 digits of precision using water: there's just too many things to control for. (Temperature, water impurities, surface tension, volume of the container, etc.)

Even measurements using the kilogram prototype are only accurate to about 8 digits (10 parts per billion), never mind its slow drift.

So, science resorts to very advanced techniques try to define the kilogram in terms of constants:
1. The watt balance, which requires an absurdly accurate measure of the gravity, Which can do this, but it makes the procedure very delicate: if you move the balance down the hall, gravity changes enough to significantly offset the results.
2. Silicon crystals, already mentioned. The good thing about this technique is that industry has well-developed methods to produce extremely pure and perfect silicon crystals.
 
2012-07-07 03:46:27 PM

poorjon: Unless Mach is haunting a closet at the BIPM, we don't need our standard to be a lump of stuff big enough to see for it to be valuable. If we can find something that is only a fraction of a kilogram, yet a VERY reliable fraction, why not use that? A 12C nucleus weighs exactly 12 amu (well, ok, we rigged it. But we also made up the kilogram). We can weigh that accurately based on electric and magnetic fields which we can bring back to the second (which we know very well) and the speed of light (which we also know very well). 1 amu equals 1.660538921(73)×10−27 kg. So what's the friggin problem?


How do you count the number of atoms in a ~1 kg mass?
 
2012-07-07 03:51:17 PM

mrlewish: What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?


Are you sugge

LesserEvil: Obviously, the Higgs-Boson they found was a stray from the Grand K. As the particle is responsible for giving matter weight, and the idiots at the LFC captured it, they've screwed up the Grand K forever.

Thanks, Science!

[i.imgur.com image 600x450]


Are you suggesting Le Grand K is migratory?
 
2012-07-07 04:01:59 PM

aerojockey: poorjon: Unless Mach is haunting a closet at the BIPM, we don't need our standard to be a lump of stuff big enough to see for it to be valuable. If we can find something that is only a fraction of a kilogram, yet a VERY reliable fraction, why not use that? A 12C nucleus weighs exactly 12 amu (well, ok, we rigged it. But we also made up the kilogram). We can weigh that accurately based on electric and magnetic fields which we can bring back to the second (which we know very well) and the speed of light (which we also know very well). 1 amu equals 1.660538921(73)×10−27 kg. So what's the friggin problem?

How do you count the number of atoms in a ~1 kg mass?


Interns.
 
2012-07-07 04:05:49 PM

BroVinny: CorporateGoon: BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."

It's "crown". It rhymes with "down".

Unless it's "clown"........ we're through the looking glass here, people.

Ever heard of the term "slant rhyme"? There's a definite hard consonant sound at the end of the word being sung.

Also, controlling the British crown isn't much of a brag these days, as the royals are mostly figureheads now. The pound is still a powerful currency, though.


And propping up Steve Guttenberg's career is something to brag about?
 
2012-07-07 04:07:31 PM

I am Sancho: BroVinny: CorporateGoon: BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."

It's "crown". It rhymes with "down".

Unless it's "clown"........ we're through the looking glass here, people.

Ever heard of the term "slant rhyme"? There's a definite hard consonant sound at the end of the word being sung.

Also, controlling the British crown isn't much of a brag these days, as the royals are mostly figureheads now. The pound is still a powerful currency, though.

And propping up Steve Guttenberg's career is something to brag about?


I think the fact that they were able to make Guttenberg a star in the first place, given what they had to work with, is the joke there.
 
2012-07-07 04:09:57 PM
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures makes Steve Guttenberg a star
 
2012-07-07 04:11:02 PM

I am Sancho: BroVinny: CorporateGoon: BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."

It's "crown". It rhymes with "down".

Unless it's "clown"........ we're through the looking glass here, people.

Ever heard of the term "slant rhyme"? There's a definite hard consonant sound at the end of the word being sung.

Also, controlling the British crown isn't much of a brag these days, as the royals are mostly figureheads now. The pound is still a powerful currency, though.

And propping up Steve Guttenberg's career is something to brag about?


BroVinny: I am Sancho: BroVinny: CorporateGoon: BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."

It's "crown". It rhymes with "down".

Unless it's "clown"........ we're through the looking glass here, people.

Ever heard of the term "slant rhyme"? There's a definite hard consonant sound at the end of the word being sung.

Also, controlling the British crown isn't much of a brag these days, as the royals are mostly figureheads now. The pound is still a powerful currency, though.

And propping up Steve Guttenberg's career is something to brag about?

I think the fact that they were able to make Guttenberg a star in the first place, given what they had to work with, is the joke there.


TheManofPA: The International Bureau of Weights and Measures makes Steve Guttenberg a star


Dammit on not refreshing right before.

I blame the Martians under wraps
 
2012-07-07 04:31:37 PM
Don't worry, IUPAC is coming to the rescue. Soon a kilogram will be a reference to an exact number of atoms of said platinum. As it should be.
 
2012-07-07 04:42:58 PM

BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."


I actually found and loaded up my copy of Virtual Springfield, since it has just Homer singing the song alone in the Stonecutter's hall. It's definitely crown. Tried to find a video on youtube but failed... I guess it's possible the game version of the song is different but I doubt it.
 
2012-07-07 04:51:54 PM

rocky_howard: What a worthless article...

"This system sounds absurd, but not too long ago, lots of units relied on similar methods." It sounds absurd because it's not true. Nobody does that.
It's just a novelty. It may have been that way in the XIX century when they had shiat for technology.

Also, we don't define shiat based on the Standards from Paris anymore. We've deduced several formulas for that.

A simple one: 1 cubic decimeter of water at sea level = 1 kilogram.


For what purity of water?
 
2012-07-07 04:58:58 PM

Comsamvimes: BroVinny: I think it's "pound," not "crown." I found references for both online, but when I went and listened to it here, it sounds like "pound."

I actually found and loaded up my copy of Virtual Springfield, since it has just Homer singing the song alone in the Stonecutter's hall. It's definitely crown. Tried to find a video on youtube but failed... I guess it's possible the game version of the song is different but I doubt it.


I linked to the video in the post you quoted.
 
2012-07-07 05:03:41 PM
The Simpson's wiki has it as "crown," so I'll defer to it.
 
2012-07-07 05:04:05 PM

Kraftwerk Orange: rocky_howard: What a worthless article...

"This system sounds absurd, but not too long ago, lots of units relied on similar methods." It sounds absurd because it's not true. Nobody does that.
It's just a novelty. It may have been that way in the XIX century when they had shiat for technology.

Also, we don't define shiat based on the Standards from Paris anymore. We've deduced several formulas for that.

A simple one: 1 cubic decimeter of water at sea level = 1 kilogram.

For what purity of water?


I was going to say the same thing. Is it possible to produce 100% pure water? Because the key here is the element weighed has to be 100% pure.
 
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