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Questions tagged [metrology]

The study of measurements

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90
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3answers
20k views

Why was carbon-12 chosen for the atomic mass unit?

The atomic mass unit is defined as 1/12th the mass of a carbon-12 atom. Was there any physical reason for such a definition? Were they trying to include electrons in the atomic mass unit? Why not ...
61
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5answers
18k views

Why do atomic clocks only use caesium?

Modern atomic clocks only use caesium atoms as oscillators. Why don't we use other atoms for this role?
59
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2answers
3k views

What are the proposed realizations in the New SI for the kilogram, ampere, kelvin and mole?

The metrology world is currently in the middle of overhauling the definitions of the SI units to reflect the recent technological advances that enable us to get much more precise values for the ...
55
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6answers
10k views

Why is the mole/“amount of substance” a dimensional quantity?

According to the BIPM and Wikipedia, "amount of substance" (as measured in moles) is one of the base quantities in our system of weights and measures. Why? I get why the mole is useful as a unit. In ...
53
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3answers
20k views

Why is the ampere a base unit and not the coulomb?

I always thought of current as the time derivative of charge, $\frac{dq}{dt}$. However, I found out recently that it is the ampere that is the base unit and not the coulomb. Why is this? It seems to ...
50
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8answers
16k views

Why does the speed of light in vacuum have no uncertainty?

I could understand that the definition of a second wouldn't have an uncertainty when related to the transition of the Cs atom, so it doesn't have an error because it's an absolute reference and we ...
49
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4answers
8k views

In nuclear physics, what length year in seconds is used?

So I'm working on a nuclear physics problem and am looking at radioactive decay. The common unit used for very long decays is years within the literature. Is this the sidereal or tropical year? I want ...
48
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3answers
11k views

Why is a second equal to the duration of exactly 9,192,631,770 periods of radiations?

Why is a second equal to the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom? Why is the number ...
45
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5answers
7k views

Why is the prospective new kilogram standard a sphere?

I can understand the choice of material, silicon 28, but why is it a sphere rather than (say) a cube? Article here I would have thought that a sphere would have been the hardest shape to machine ...
41
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2answers
5k views

Why are scientists involved in the Avogadro Project using silicon-28 atoms instead of carbon-12?

My question is, why use silicon-28 atoms to calculate the kilogram when you already have carbon-12 atoms defining the constant? Does the Avogadro Project intend to define the constant by replacing ...
40
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3answers
12k views

Will the volt, ampere, ohm or other electrical units change on May 20th, 2019? [duplicate]

When watching a video by Veritasium about the SI units redefinition (5:29), a claim that the volt and unit of resistance (presumably the ohm) will change by about 1 part in 10 million caught my ...
33
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7answers
7k views

Why are leap seconds needed so often?

In Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), leap seconds are added to account for the slowing down of Earth's rotation. But the slowing down is said to be of the order of milliseconds in a century. Then why ...
31
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3answers
2k views

Is there any truth to interpreting definition of a second as corresponding to oscillations?

As far as I understand the definition of a second, the Cs-133 atom has two hyperfine ground states (which I don't really understand what they are but it's not really important), with a specific energy ...
28
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3answers
21k views

Why does the metric system use “kilogram” as a base SI unit?

SI system uses all (that I know) measurement basic units as 1 (single) instance: meter, second, ampere, etc, except the KILOgram. It already defined with 1000 multiplier (kilo). It prevents from ...
25
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3answers
8k views

Is the fact that 100 kPa equals about 1 atmosphere accidental?

Typical atmosphere near sea level, in ambient conditions is around 100,000 pascals. But the pascal, as the unit, is not defined through Earth atmospheric pressure. It's defined as one newton per ...
25
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4answers
1k views

Why isn't it $E \approx 27.642 \times mc^2$?

Why is it that many of the most important physical equations don't have ugly numbers (i.e., "arbitrary" irrational factors) to line up both sides? Why can so many equations be expressed so neatly ...
24
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6answers
4k views

Why is the meter considered a basic SI unit if its definition depends on the second?

The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1  ⁄ 299792458 of a second. – 17th CGPM (1983, Resolution 1, CR, 97), source The meter (or metre) is ...
23
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7answers
10k views

Where on Earth does the mass of 1 kg actually produce a 1 kg reading on a digital scale?

Gravity on Earth varies by about 0.1% between poles and equator. If someone was buying/selling something mass critical e.g. gold, where is the standard place on Earth where a 1 kg mass produces a 1 kg ...
21
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5answers
7k views

Why is energy not an SI base unit?

According to a textbook I have begun to read, there are seven base SI units: Length Mass Time Temperature Amount of a substance Electric current Luminous intensity What I do not understand is, why ...
16
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4answers
12k views

How can a day be exactly 24 hours long? [closed]

The longest solar day of year is approximately 24 hours 0 min 30 seconds (occurs at mid to late December) while the shortest solar day of year is approximately 23 hour 59min 38 seconds. If I average ...
16
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2answers
975 views

What makes the thorium-229 nuclear transition special?

Thorium-229 has a famous isomer with an excitation energy of only about 7.8 eV. As I gather from the wikipedia page, this transition was discovered essentially by accident from gamma ray spectroscopy....
16
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4answers
4k views

Why is the candela a base unit of the SI?

The candela is defined as The candela is the luminous intensity, in a given direction, of a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency $540\cdot10^{12}$ hertz and that has a radiant ...
14
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4answers
3k views

Why is the mol a fundamental physical quantity? [duplicate]

I am starting to study physics in detail and as I read about physical quantities, I was puzzled why mol (amount of substance) is taken as a physical quantity. A physical quantity is any quantity ...
14
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1answer
905 views

What's the difference between a realization, a representation and an implementation in metrology?

In a recent answer, a metrologist casually used the terms 'realization' and 'implementation' of an SI unit as if they were different, which looks very strange to the untrained eye. Some further ...
14
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1answer
1k views

What is a base unit in the new SI, and why is the ampere one of them?

One question that comes up pretty much always in introductory electromagnetism courses is Why the base unit of electrical measurements is the ampere and not the coulomb, and the usual answer is that ...
12
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4answers
2k views

What's keeping us from simply redefining Avogadro's Number / the Mole as a definite integer?

This might be a question to ask in a Chemistry site, but because there is a lot of talk about redefining many units of measurements in terms of Avogadro's Number / the Mole, I was wondering why we don'...
12
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3answers
24k views

How is a second measured? And why is it measured that way?

The earth's rotation around the sun isn't exactly 24 hours. It off by some seconds which becomes somewhere around 6 hours per year and 1 day in 4 years(leap year), which brings the question why didn't ...
12
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3answers
757 views

If time standard clocks and any memories about the time standard are destroyed, can we recover the time standard again?

Assume the time standard clocks and any memories about the time standard are destroyed. Can we recover the time standard again exactly? Recovering the time standard again means we can determine the ...
12
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2answers
6k views

The famous drop of $c$

In this (in my opinion) intriguing speech, Rupert Sheldrake tells the story of the drop in the measured value of $c$ between 1928 and 1945. When he goes to visit the Head of Metrology of the Physics ...
12
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3answers
308 views

$1.7\cdot 10^{-24}$ mole apples a day

As the title suggests I was wondering why the International Bureau of Weights and Measures decided a mole to be a standard (SI-)unit. After some research I found I was not alone with this problem. ...
11
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4answers
7k views

How many fixed points does a Kelvin scale have?

I have a book that says: In the absolute Kelvin scale, the triple point of water is assigned the value of 273.16 K. The absolute zero is taken as the other fixed point. But, then another ...
11
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3answers
21k views

273 + degree Celsius = Kelvin. Why 273?

Temperature conversion: $$273 + \text{degree Celsius} = \text{Kelvin}$$ Actually why is that $273$? How does one come up with this? My teacher mentioned Gann's law (not sure if this is the one) but ...
10
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2answers
1k views

Proper reference for the International System of Units

I would like to cite a relevant document that guides usage of SI units. It seems like currently there are two nearly identical literature sources: 8th edition of SI Brochure issued by BIPM, 2006; ...
10
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3answers
318 views

If the candela is a base SI unit, why isn't the sone an SI unit at all?

Related: Why is the candela a base unit of the SI? In the answers given in the previous question, the candela is included because lighting is important for humans. By the same argument, hearing is ...
9
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3answers
8k views

Why is the second the SI base unit for time?

Specifically, during the moves towards Le Système international d'unités in the 18th and 19th centuries, why didn't anyone attempt to move us away from the definition of there being 24 hours in a day? ...
9
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5answers
3k views

Is the speed of light in vacuum always the same value?

The escape velocity of different planets and stars vary. If they vary, the velocities of bodies escaping from the respective stars or planets should also vary. Like, if I want a ball to reach 10 ...
9
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5answers
5k views

Measuring the speed of light and defining the metre - absolute or relative?

If the metre is now defined as the distance light travels in vacuum in $1/299\,792\,458^{\textrm{th}}$ of a second and the speed of light is accepted to be $299\,792\,458\ \textrm{m}\,{\rm s}^{-1}$, ...
9
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2answers
2k views

Why do we still not have an exact (constants-based) definition for a kilogram?

I read that there is an effort to define a kilogram in terms that can exactly be reproduced in a lab. Why has it taken so long to get this done? It would seem this should be fairly important. Edit: ...
9
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2answers
2k views

Why is the absolute zero a rational number in Celcius?

From the question "Why is the absolute zero -273.15ºC?" I understood that 1°C is the 100th part of the difference of melting and boiling temperature of water (this is my high school physics, ...
9
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2answers
3k views

Which is the “roundest man-made object”: Gravity probe B rotor or the Avogadro project sphere?

The Avogadro project is part of the efforts to replace the artefact-based standard kilogram with a definition based on naturally reproducible objects. The main challenge is to make a very precise ...
9
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4answers
2k views

Can the accuracy in Planck's constant ever be increased?

I guess I am having some confusion about the history of calculating Planck's constant. I see the mass of the electron may come into the equation here but isn't the measurement of mass based mostly ...
9
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1answer
167 views

How is a standard unit divided into equally smaller or fractional units physically/experimentally?

Consider the standard unit of length: meter. How was it divided into decimeter, centimeter, millimeter, etc. when there were no shorter lengths than the standard? What is the physical/experimental ...
8
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5answers
2k views

Is anything actually 1 meter long (or 1kg of weight)?

I believe that no real objects are actually (exactly) 1 meter long, since for something to be 1.00000000... meters long, we would have to have the ability to measure with infinite precision. Obviously,...
8
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2answers
1k views

Why isn't a meter defined from a kilogram of water?

Why are there different official definitions for a kilogram and for a meter when a meter can be defined by the volume of a kilogram of water? For instance, using the triple point or some other state ...
8
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5answers
759 views

Why a day is divided by 12/24 hours? Why the number 12?

Why a day is divided by 12/24 hours? Why the number 12? Why not using 10 or 6 or 14, 16? Who invented this? Any physical reasons behind this?
8
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3answers
33k views

$\rm Lux$ and $W/m^2$ relationship?

I am reading a bit about solar energy, and for my own curiosity, I would really like to know the insolation on my balcony. That could tell me how much a solar panel could produce. Now, I don't have ...
8
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3answers
28k views

Refractive index of air in dependence of temperature

What is the exact dependence of the refractive index of air and the temperature? Is there a theoretical derivation of it?
7
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4answers
1k views

Why were the SI base quantities chosen as such?

The reasons for choosing length, mass, time, temperature, and amount as base quantities look (at least to me) obvious. What I'm puzzling about is why current (as opposed to resistance, electromotive ...
7
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1answer
163 views

What will be the uncertainty in $\mu_0$ under the new SI scheme?

As you may be aware, a new SI system is likely to be adopted in November 2018 (see https://www.nist.gov/si-redefinition/kilogram-introduction). Whilst the speed of light remains a fixed quantity and ...
6
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3answers
1k views

Definition of a year

Is there an acceptable definition of a year (in number of days)? Google Calculator: https://www.google.com/search?q=seconds+in+1+year returns 3.15569e7 seconds and then https://www.google.com/...