Feeds

Register boffinry confab: Mass debate on the Perfect Kilogram

Readers have their say (but don't weigh in)

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The next step in data security

Live Chat For more than a century the world has relied upon a lump of metal protected under high security in a location outside Paris to accurately measure the kilogram.

Problem is, the metal lump's mass might not actually amount to one kilogram - meaning the kilogram as you know it is wrong.

Now, more than 30 years since they began theorising about a new, more reliable way to measure the kilogram - boffins are discussing the rollout of a new standard based on current and magnetism and the principles of quantum mechanics.

It’ll be the first time you can’t touch or feel the kilogram; the kilogram will be the last of the seven fundamental units to make the leap from being based on a physical object to being based on a stable property of the universe (for example, the metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second).

But there’s a problem: although the boffins have agreed to use Planck's constant - an atomic-scale constant - to calculate the kilo's mass, nobody knows the constant's precise value. Two key instruments, called watt balances, used by scientists to calculate the quantum constant don't agree and can't as yet produce sufficiently reliable results.

The gap is tiny, yet huge: the equivalent of specks of dust or a parts of a grain of sugar.

Those working to crack the problem include the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Canada's Institute for National Measurement Standards.

The Reg recently spoke to Ian Robinson, a fellow with the UK's National Physical Laboratory, as part of our article here on the quantum kilogram. You can hear more about his work and ask Ian any questions on the quantum kilogram during our half-hour Live Chat on 23 November at 14.00 GMT, 9.00 Eastern and 6.00 Pacific.

We’ll chat about:

  • How physics is being applied to this 100-year-old problem
  • Why the different projects can’t agree
  • What the quantum kilogram means for your kitchen
  • The latest on that meeting on the standard’s rollout

Sign up for our quantum kilogram revolution Live Chat in the window below.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.