Sunday, 8 September 2013

special k

The brilliant Miss Cellania, writing for Neat-o-Rama, has a excellent essay worth revisiting on weights and standards and an homage for the caretakers of the physical embodiment, the thing-in-itself, of the kilogramme, Le Grand K, kept under lock and key in hermetic conditions in a facility outside of Paris.
While other measurements, like the Metre, which used to be represented by a metal rod, a yardstick to measure all other metres against kept in the same laboratory beside it's other Metric Pals (I rather like the notion that there are platonic forms of such abstract things, however), have been redefined in such a way based off of universal constants that makes artefacts unnecessary, weight, being subject to a lot of different factors like mass being distinct from weigh, altitude, the churnings at the centre of the Earth that affect local gravity and the fact that Le Grand K is tugging back ever so slightly against the City of Paris that keeps him solidly on the table top, I suppose, proves resistant to being described in terms of natural constants that could be calibrated anywhere, with the right instruments. Of course, for everyday use, approximations are good enough, even if a few grams or grains off—but for some purposes, like mixing up the medicine, discrepancies over a whole cargo-ship full of goods, or for the calculations that rely on weight as a function of energy, preciseness and consistency is paramount.