The World's Official Kilogram Is Losing Weight and That Might Screw the Metric System

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We've long known that there were some issues with France's 'Le Grand K', the international prototype for what a kilogram really is. Made in 1879 from platinum and iridium alloy, it is the perfect standard for what a kilogram weighs. The problem is, it's losing weight.

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Mental Floss takes a look at what the lost weight of the official kilogram means and the flaws of using a physical standard for such important purposes and it's all so fascinating. For example, scientists are scrambling to redefine what a kilogram is, like how they changed the definition of a meter from once being a metal rod stored next to 'Le Grand K' to the distance light travels in a vacuum during 1/299,792,458 of a second.

But why does it matter whether or not 'Le Grand K' is the perfect kilogram? Because standards need to be, well, standardized. Mental Floss says, the little changes can add up to be a big problem. Specifically:

The kilogram is also used as a building block in other measurements. The joule, for instance, is the amount of energy required to move a one-kilogram weight one meter. The candela, a measure of the brightness of light, is measured in joules per second.

These links mean that if the kilogram is flawed, so are the joule and candela, which could eventually cause problems in an array of industries, particularly in technology. As microchips process more information at higher speeds, even tiny deviations will lead to catastrophes. Le Grand K's unreliability "will start to be noticeable in the next decade or two in the electronics industry," warns NIST physicist Richard Steiner.

Read more about the flawed perfect kilogram at Mental Floss. [Mental Floss]

DISCUSSION

By
d5280

This is why all this talk about the US moving to the metric system is stupid in my opinion. The definition of both 1 meter and 1 KG are just as arbitrary as 1 inch or 1 pound.

The only noticeable difference is that one is a base 10 system the other base 12. Base 10 is easier for adding and subtracting. Base 12 is easier for fractions. (the imperial system is also what the construction industry is based on. For example, when England switched, they didn't start making 2x4's, (really 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" Don't get me started on that!) they just started calling them 38x89's. Yeah, that makes the math easier....

But both of those systems seem antiquated. Why aren't we using a binary system? it does run so much of our world these days.