Redefining the meter, kilogram, etc.

  • Thread starter Banaticus
  • Start date
  • Tags
    Meter
In summary: There are pros and cons to each definition but ultimately it is up to the individual countries to decide which system to use.
  • #1
Banaticus
32
0

Homework Statement


This isn't homework, it's just something that I've been thinking about, but I thought that this was the best forum to ask this.

The meter was first attempted to be defined as 1/10 millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator through Paris. This seems so... egocentric? Not only for one country, but for our world. True, math is a universal language, but were we to meet with aliens at a higher technological level, would our meter, kilogram, etc., seem as parochial as the Roman Empire mandating that a mile be exactly equivalent to one thousand paces, but then shifting to be equal to pretty much equal to eight furlongs?

Were a meter, kilogram, etc., to all be defined somewhat differently, how would this affect different standard constants? For instance...

Gravitational potential energy is given as: [tex]G\frac{M*m}{r^2}[/tex]
Electrical potential energy is given as: [tex]k\frac{Q*q}{r^2}[/tex]

Those formulas are pretty darn close. Is it possible to recalculate SI units and base them on some sort of "universal constant" so that those two formulas would use the same constant? Sure, charges only attract between opposite "types" (positive and negative) and all mass attracts (mass is only positive), but on the surface of the formulas, the way it looks, the major difference is pretty much G and k.

If we were to redo basic SI units so that G and k were equal to one another, so that we could have one equation of the form [tex]x\frac{Thing_1*Thing_2}{r^2}[/tex] with r again measured in meters, but with the ability to either plug in two charge values or two mass values and use the same constant x, how should we go about redoing SI units?

Homework Equations


Gravitational potential energy is given as: [tex]G\frac{M*m}{r^2}[/tex]
Electrical potential energy is given as: [tex]k\frac{Q*q}{r^2}[/tex]

The Attempt at a Solution



We could redefine the length of the meter. The platinum-iridium bar is sort of hokey, since it's short by 1/5 of a mm from what it was purported to be.

We could redefine the kilogram, based on either the regular meter or a redefined meter. Should [tex]H_2O[/tex], although common and absolutely necessary for life as we know it, be the basis for our weights? Why not carbon? Or hydrogen, the most common element in the universe. 1.0008, it's almost 1, can't we find some way to redefine SI units so that it is exactly 1, just like 1 liter is exactly 1000 deciliters?
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
Actual definition of meter is distance traveled by light in vacuum in 1⁄299,792,458 sec, before it was 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of the orange-red emission line of the krypton-86 atom. Definitions of other constants changed as well.

You are not the first one to think about such a universal system. Question is - does it make sense? We have enough problems converteing between feets and meters already.
 
  • #3
But that definition of a meter, with its crazy value in seconds (why not something simple like exactly 1/3.0x10^8) was developed to match the length of the platinum-iridium bar, which (despite all their best efforts) is ever so slightly changing. Just like citizens of the United States don't want to have to reconfigure everything to switch over to some new measuring system, citizens of other countries don't want to reconfigure everything to switch over to some new meter. Witnes the Dutch pond, how it was officially switched over to be 1 kilogram, even though everyone still uses it as equal to only half a kilogram.

Those of us on this forum aren't anyone official. We don't have the power to switch even the smallest of countries over to some different system, nor would it likely be in anyone's economic best interest to switch to some new system. But, as long as we're talking hypothetically, what do you think would need to be changed? Is there something that seems more "natural"?
 
  • #4
The metre was intended NOT to be egocentric. Rather than being the length of some official bar somewhere the idea was that anyone anywhere in the world could make their own standard metre by simply observing a star at two places North-South of each other. Really you are just measuring the length of some latitude angle difference on the earth. The 10,000,000 was chosen to be a nice round number and give a result that was a convenient size for everyday use (and similair to the Yard).

Unfortunately in making the measurements to determine this distance they discovered that the Earth wasn't round and so their technique couldn't be used anywhere else and had to be defined in terms of a real object again.
Switching to the wavelength and then the time definition is just a better technological solution to their original intention.

The reason for the odd number is due to the definition of the second - which is similairly arbitrary. You could define the speed of light as 1m/s and create a new 'second' but it would be a little confusing.
In lots of areas of physics you do make up convenient local units like solar masses or eV or set the speed of light to be 1.
 

1. What is the reason for redefining the meter, kilogram, etc.?

The current definitions of the meter, kilogram, and other units of measurement are based on physical objects and are subject to change over time due to factors such as wear and tear, environmental conditions, and loss or damage. Redefining these units in terms of fundamental constants of nature, such as the speed of light and the Planck constant, will provide a more stable and precise basis for measurement.

2. When will the redefinition of the meter, kilogram, etc. take effect?

The redefinition of these units is scheduled to take effect on May 20, 2019 at the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in Paris, France.

3. Will the redefinition of the meter, kilogram, etc. affect everyday measurements?

In most cases, the redefinition will not have a noticeable impact on everyday measurements, as the changes are very small and will only be noticeable in highly precise measurements. However, the redefinition will provide a more accurate and consistent basis for all measurements.

4. How will the redefinition of the meter, kilogram, etc. affect scientific research?

The redefinition will have a significant impact on scientific research, as it will allow for more precise and accurate measurements in fields such as physics, chemistry, and engineering. This could lead to new discoveries and advancements in these fields.

5. Are there any potential challenges or drawbacks to the redefinition of the meter, kilogram, etc.?

One potential challenge is that the new definitions may require updated equipment and methods for measurement, which could be costly and time-consuming for some industries. Additionally, there may be a period of adjustment as scientists and engineers adapt to the new definitions and standards. However, the benefits of a more stable and accurate measurement system are expected to outweigh any challenges.

Similar threads

  • Other Physics Topics
2
Replies
57
Views
5K
Replies
4
Views
434
  • Biology and Chemistry Homework Help
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • Classical Physics
2
Replies
61
Views
1K
  • Classical Physics
Replies
29
Views
2K
  • Other Physics Topics
2
Replies
63
Views
14K
  • Special and General Relativity
2
Replies
43
Views
2K
  • Biology and Chemistry Homework Help
Replies
6
Views
2K
  • Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
16
Views
399
Replies
8
Views
520
Back
Top