NIST: Historic Vote Ties Kilogram And Other Units To Natural Constants

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

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.

Suffice to say that the updated definition will, in time, spare nations the need to occasionally send their kilos back to France for calibration against the "Grand K" Scientists instead should be able to accurately calculate an exact kilo without having to measure one lump of metal against another.

At the General Conference on Weights and Measures (yes, this is a real thing), in Versailles, scientists from more than 50 nations weighed in on the historic vote. Those numbers were read to the national delegates before they voted.

Nobel prize victor William Phillips called the update "the greatest revolution in measurement since the French revolution", which ushered in the metric system of meters and kilograms.

Others, like these researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the USA, had a more permanent approach to their celebrations, by tattooing the re-defined unit onto their arm.

"Those units, those constants chosen now, include everything we know, everything we have always known and provide that springboard for us to go pursue those things that we don't know", he said. He said Friday's gathering "was just leaving me in a puddle of tears".

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The decision, made at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles, France, which is organised by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), means that all SI units will now be defined in terms of constants that describe the natural world.

It's now official that Le Grand K will no longer be the ideal kilogram.

For the average person, however, the new definition shouldn't make much of a difference. Their bathroom scales won't get kinder and kilos and grams won't change in supermarkets. It is now being retired and replaced by a new definition based on a scientific formula.

Unlike a physical object, the formula for the kilo, now also known as "the electric kilo", can not pick up particles of dust, decay with time or be dropped and damaged, but will be easier to share. It also is expected to be more accurate when measuring very, very small or very, very large masses. Using combinations of these constants and the equations of quantum mechanics, scientists created revised SI units for measuring mass, electric current, temperature and the mole that are at least one million times more stable than artifacts like Le Grand K.

Dr Theodoor Janssen, director of research at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, south-west London, which is responsible for the UK's measurement standards, said: "The SI redefinition is a landmark moment in scientific measurement".

The ampere will now be defined by the elementary electrical charge, the kelvin by the Boltzmann constant and the mole by by the Avogadro constant.

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