A Massive Decision: The Conference That Plans to Redefine the Kilogram
How organizations plan to change what things weigh
A decision being made at a conference in France this week carries a lot of weight—and that’s not a metaphor, either. (It also carries a lot of mass.)
The kilogram, which until this point has been based on the weight and mass model of a specific block of platinum and iridium called Le Grand K, will be put up for debate Friday at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles. The pristine metal prototype of the kilogram—relied upon since 1889, housed under heavy security, and specifically designed to resist corrosion—is widely expected to be replaced with mathematical models for measurement, such as the speed of light.
Of the seven main measures used around the world in the metric system, the kilogram is the last to rely on a physical object; others, such as the meter, have changed to similar light-based calculations. (In the meter’s case, per The Associated Press, it’s the length that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458th of a second.)
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