Feeds

Register boffinry confab: Mass debate on the Perfect Kilogram

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

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.