Monday, 17 December, 2018

Landmark change to measurement of kilogramme approved

A replica of the International Prototype Kilogram at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris CHRISTOPHE ENA APA replica of the International Prototype Kilogram at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris
Kenny Thornton | 18 November, 2018, 16:49

U.S. President Benjamin Harrison was given a copy of Le Grand K the same year.

The kilogram - which was and still is roughly equivalent to 2.2 pounds - was redefined in order to streamline scientific research and development involving ultra-precise measurements of mass.

The change will have no discernible impact for most people.

The global prototype for 1 Kilogram and its six official copies are pictured in a safe at the worldwide Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sevres, France, circa 2001.

Seven main units of measurement are now in use, including the metre for length, the kilogramme for mass, the second for time, the ampere for electric current, the kelvin for temperature, the mole for the amount of a substance, and the candela for luminous intensity.

"If we stay where we are, and someone did accidentally drop the kilogram or if there was a contamination that we couldn't control, then the whole system has got no head".

The "Planck constant", which derives from quantum physics, can be used along with a Kibble balance, an exquisitely accurate weighing machine, to calculate the mass of an object using a precisely measured electromagnetic force.

Bathroom scales won't suddenly get kinder when the definition of a kilogram changes
123RFBathroom scales won't suddenly get kinder when the definition of a kilogram changes

"We will now no longer be bound by the limitations of objects in our measurement of the world, but have universally accessible units that can pave the way to even greater accuracy, and even accelerate scientific advancement", said Doctor Barry Inglis, who is the first Australian to be President of the International Committee of Weights and Measurements.

The reason for the change to the International System of Measurement (SI) units was that over time the prototype lost atoms and therefore mass because it is "susceptible to damage and environmental factors", according to the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which houses Kilo 18, Britain's copy of Le Grand K. He said Friday's gathering "was just leaving me in a puddle of tears".

The changes will come into force on 20 May next year and also affect the ampere, the kelvin and the mole.

Until now, everything from kitchen scales to gym weights around the world was manufactured to the standard set by the cylinder of platinum iridium, which has been kept in a high-security vault in the French capital since 1889. In their vote, countries also unanimously approved updates to three other key units- the kelvin for temperature, the ampere for electrical current and the mole for the amount of a substance.

A replica of the International Prototype Kilogram is pictured at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, in Sevres, near Paris. "So even though Le Grand K is fit for objective at the moment, it won't be in 100 years' time", he tells BBC. Very rarely have they seen the light of day.

The new definitions will be put into place on May 20th, 2019.

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