This long-form article on Vox is a fascinating read on both why and how the kilogram was recently redefined. No longer based on a single plug of metal stored under lock, key, and guard, it will soon be based on a universal constant.
I’d recommend the article for anyone who likes geeky stuff, but here are a few things in particular that caught my eye.
1. Anyone who tattoos both the Planck constant and the motto of the metric system (“For all times, for all people”) on their arm absolutely deserves the label of Badass Scientist.
2. I did not know that the metric system was born in the French Revolution!
3. Currently, the exact value of a kilogram is based on Big K, the aforementioned plug of metal housed in Sèvres, France since 1889. Since that time, it has lost approximately 50 micrograms (the mass of an eyelash), which means our kilogram standard has changed with it. Because everything in the world, every balance and scale and weighing system in any nation, is based on Big K.
4. “If Big K were stolen, our world’s system of mass measurement would be thrown into chaos.” Upon reading this, my first thought was: Oh yeah, there’s a fabulous crime thriller right there. Can someone please make that into a movie starring Cate Blanchett? Thanks.