Tech: International System of Units overhauled in historic vote

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure

In a historic vote, nations on Friday unanimously approved a groundbreaking overhaul to the worldwide system of measurements that underpins global trade and other vital human endeavors, uniting behind new scientific definitions for the kilogram and other units in a way that they have failed to do on so many other issues.

In 2013, scientists discovered that the kilogram Prototype had gained tens of micrograms of mass from surface contamination. Yet, despite its heavy security, the cylinder has begun to wear away, causing slight inaccuracies in the way we define and measure a kilogram. And it no longer makes any sense to measure Planck's constant.

In future the kilogram is likely to be defined using the Planck constant, a quantum value that sets the fixed ways atoms can vibrate.

Despite the fact that the measure of these units won't change (a kilogram will, in any case, be a kilogram), the four reclassified units will join the second, the meter and the candela to guarantee that the arrangement of SI base units will keep on being both steady and helpful. Going forward, the kilogram will be eternally tied to Planck's constant. "As an historic artefact that has been under study for 140 years, it will continue to be important for researchers for years to come", it says.

The worldwide prototype kilogram is essentially a 4-cm cylinder consisting of 90% platinum and 10% iridium.

The metric system - or, as it is known today, the International System of Units (SI) - is an incredible achievement of mankind.


"We know from comparing the kilogram in Paris with all the copies of the kilogram that are all around the world that there are discrepancies between them and Le Grand K itself", said a BBC report quoting Dr Stuart Davidson, head of mass metrology at NPL, UK.

It is noted that every few decades all copies of the kilograms in the world had to be checked.

The new system will allow us to determine the pounds of anyone who has a device called the balance of the Kibble.

Instead of checking it against an actual weight, scientists can now find an exact kilogram by measuring the amount of electricity needed to lift it, using a special set of scales known as The Kibble balance.

Weighing stuff just got more thrilling, as the world metrological community has now redefined the kilogram-and other quantities-to be based on physical constants. "There are pollutants in the atmosphere that can stick to the mass", Reuters quoted a specialist in the engineering, materials and electrical science department at Britain's National Physical Laboratory Ian Robinson as saying.

Dutch CIPM member Gert Rietveld and International representatives applause after the final vote introducing the reform during the International General Conference of Weights and Measures held in Versailles, near Paris, France, Nov. 16, 2018. This mass was then represented by a cylinder - the prototype that was adopted as a unit of weight by other countries.

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