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Technorati is indexing me again! They had to make a code change to fix the problem with my blog getting stuck in their queue. Kudos to Eric M. and the guys at GetSatisfaction.com where they have "community powered support for Technorati".
Well, they're "sorta, kinda" indexing me anyway. It's on a 24 hour tape delay or something. So I never get picked up by Memeorandum because they pull from Technorati and Technorati has stuff I posted yesterday listed as my latest blog entry. And that's old news to Memeorandum.
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When is a kilogram not a kilogram? When it puts on weight while hanging out in the lab!
The kilogram may need to go on a diet. The international standard, a cylinder-shaped hunk of metal that defines the fundamental unit of mass, has gained tens of micrograms in weight from surface contamination, according to a new study.
As a result, each country that has one of these standard masses has a slightly different definition of the kilogram, which could throw off science experiments that require very precise weight measurements or international trade in highly restricted items that are restricted by weight, such as radioactive materials.
From the Stuff That Makes You Go Hmmm Once You Find Out About It File — there are about 40 of these platinum-iridium cylinders, which were created in 1875, and distributed to countries who signed on to the Convention of the Meter. The problem is, over time the cylinders became slightly different due to disparities in how they're handled and cleaned.
To clean them, a skilled technician will rub the cylinders with chamois leather dipped in alcohol. But because every country cleans their kilograms differently and at different times, each kilogram in the world is off by a different, unknown amount.
To solve the cleaning problem scientists developed a nifty new gadget that uses ozone and ultraviolet light to really get those cylinders shiny and bright. It also has the added bonus of providing a uniform cleaning procedure, so the fundamental unit of mass could soon be more consistent.
Long-term though the world needs to get away from defining the kilogram based on what is essentially a glorified beer can. What happens if the cleaning guy drops it? You can't really order a new one from Amazon...
One possibility is to use a fundamental law of nature instead. A precision electromagnetic device could be created to produce a uniform amount of force, from which mass can then be calculated. Of course adopting such a procedure will entail years of international negotiations so we're pretty much stuck for now.
So… The next time your scale says you've packed on a few pounds, you
can probably get away with blaming it on "inconsistencies" in the international
definition of a kilogram. I mean, if Real Scientists say they aren't sure, how
can that el-cheapo bathroom scale possibly be right!
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