Scientists are Eliminating the Kilogram! So, What Happens Next?
70 Comments


In the name of the
kilo, and of the mole, and of the holy
meter, I welcome you. Ampere be with you. And with your second. We are here, today, to
lay to rest the kilogram. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And I have questions. Hey there, mass
drivers and nerd fam. Welcome to Uno Dos of Trace. This week, the kilogram
is weighing on my mind, because it has amassed
quite a bit of news. According to Science Magazine,
next week at the 26th General Conference On
Weights and Measures, they’re going to retire Le
Grand K, the name for the weight of platinum and
iridium alloy sitting at the Bureau of Weights and
Measures outside of Paris. This is a big deal. The kilogram is changing. So questions, go. Why does this matter? How do we get these
measurements, anyway? What is going to happen
when do this to kilogram? How do we know what the
kilogram is in the first place? Did I just get fatter? How are we going to
teach measurements? Should you even care about this? And other questions, as well. So let’s break this down. This matters. OK, that’s the last one. I promise. Because some things need to
know their mass and their weight very specifically, at
standard mass and a set temperature at one place,
and that was the deal. If everyone had their own kilo
in every different country, then there was no consistency. I mean, technically,
everybody does, but they all compare back to this one. Even gravity isn’t
exactly consistent, depending on where you are. If you’re on top of a
mountain made of lead, there’s more gravity than
at the bottom of the ocean. That’s just how gravity works. But as we learned more
about our universe, we found that these physical
objects, bars and chunks of metal, they were too flimsy. Even at a constant
temperature, in Paris, behind three locked jars, Le
Grand K was changing in mass. We just can’t have nice things. But how can we know what a
kilo is without the kilo? Simple. Take it off the physical plane. Change the units
from physical objects to reflections of our
understanding of the universe. And that’s exactly what
they’re going to do. This physical kilo is the last
one on the chopping block. So let me back up for a second,
explain how we got here. Units of measure have
been around forever. For as long as we’ve interacted,
and bartered, and made deals, we’ve had units of measure. And everybody used
different ones. We got the metric system
because we decided to pick one. All of humanity, except Myanmar,
the United States, and Liberia, use the metric, or SI, system. But before that,
there were literally thousands of ways
to measure things. Different cities, and
countries, and regions all had their own units of measure. At one time, the King of England
decreed that an inch was three dried barley corns. 1,000 years before that, the
Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne declared his foot
was the standard. And way before that, the
Egyptians used the distance from the elbow to the fingertip,
and they called it a cubit. But even then, they realized
that not everybody’s arm is the same length. So they had to go
get a granite block, and they carved it and made
a cubit out of that and all. So many units. In 1793, while the French
were revolutioning, they decided to build some
physical units of their own. The meter and the kilogram. The meter was adopted as
1/10,000,000th the distance from the Earth’s
equator to the pole, measured on a meridian
through Paris. They cast some platinum
bars of it, and then, voila. That is the meter, period. No question. Human comparison not needed. The kilogram was a liter
of water, at freezing. Not the best but, still,
I guess, that’s pretty OK. Over time, as
we’ve gotten better at measuring our universe,
we’ve refined these standards. And eventually, we
realized, no matter what the standards were made
out of, it wouldn’t be perfect. That bar of metal isn’t going
to be perfect and pristine forever. So in 1983, we redefined the
meter to be how far light travels in one 1/
299,792,458th of a second. I mean, actually,
the speed of light was defined as exactly
299,792,458 meters per second, meaning that the meter was a
fraction of the speed of light. And you get it. This happened again, and
again, with each unit in the SI system. Temperature isn’t
defined by water, but by Boltzmann’s constant,
a relation of temperature and energy. Amps are defined by the
charge of an electron. Length is defined by the
speed of light, and so on. And so now, the kilo,
too, will evolve, becoming a metaphysical constant. The equivalent
mass of the energy of a photon, given its frequency
via the Planck Constant. I don’t know why I slipped
into an accent there, but it doesn’t matter. This is really complicated. It requires a lot
of high level math, so how do we teach
this to kids, right? Easy. Tell them this is
the meter, done. They’re kids. I know what some of you
might be thinking, too. This is dumb. Feet are better. I know a foot. It’s my foot. If you’re comforted by the
foot being human based, let me break it to you. It ain’t. The foot has nothing to do with
humans, except the word, foot. One foot is not a human foot. Has nothing to do with
the King of England, has nothing to do with
Emperor Charlemagne. It’s exactly 0.348 meters. No podiatry involved whatsoever. So what’s going to happen then? We redefine the
kilogram and some people are going to get heavier
and some people are going to get lighter, or what? Nothing is going to happen. The kilo is going to be
exactly accurate, all the time, because the laws of the
universe are unchanging. Plus, scientists who
need this accuracy can be as precise
as possible using math, plus, a universal
constant that doesn’t change. Almost like they can whip up
a metaphysical version of Le Grand K in their lab, anytime
they want, to make sure their calculations are perfect. Honestly, this is a big deal. But what it really
says to me is we in the US should just convert
to metric already, come on! We’re basically using a crappy
reskinned version of it, anyway. No more research is needed here. That’s not true. That’s not true. We can always add more decimals,
on the end, can’t we, nerd fam? Come on. Always research is
more is needed is more. Thanks so much for watching
this video, everyone. If you have standards,
why don’t you just go ahead and like
and share and comment. I respond to all my comments. And subscribe. There’s a button right there. So easy to use, and
it tells YouTube that you care about this video. Love you, nerd fam. I will see you next week. La Croix, if only I
had one meter of it. The units from physical obl– obl– ha. That is so stupid. I feel like Sybill Trelawney.

70 thoughts on “Scientists are Eliminating the Kilogram! So, What Happens Next?

  1. For me, the biggest stumbling blocks are temperature, relative speed, and liquid measurements. I use grams to measure what I eat etc so I can grok that better, the first three it's very hard for my mind to give me that understanding in C, KPH, and L. Of course if we were to use them every day, everywhere, I would get better at it.

  2. I imagine it to be quite hard for the US to switch to the metric system. It would probably cause a lot of confusion.
    But still you guys on the other side of the pond should switch to the metric system, in the long term it will be more beneficial.

  3. "Always research is more is needed is more." is one of my favorite sentences now. Although I do have issue to your "Laws of the Universe are unchanging" assertion. Perhaps we haven't been studying long enough, maybe the laws of nature are as changing as the weather, but just on timescales that outlast planets, stars, or even galaxies. What if the speed of light in a vacuum (absent strong gravitational distortions) is changing by 1 m/s over a billion years ans we haven't been studying precisely enough or long enough to notice yet? Unlikely, I know, and we are of course limited to our human lifespans and technology, but I think it's fun to think about.

  4. Trace can you do a video on solar black spots. Iv always wanted to know why these spots don't 're ignite ? Thank you for the kilograms notification, i had no idea

  5. Oh, I thought they were going to redefine the kilogram as "One murdered gram."
    Because that would be exactly one… kill a gram.
    edit: I just realized, if they did that there would be mass confusion.

  6. WHAT??? So appreciative of you covering this as I hadn't heard anything about it and likely would've found out so late… I'm going to embed this video in an "article" (well, it'll actually be more of a post – with the video, it's description and your social links) in my newspaper (regional daily for a few dozen small towns in Northern Ontario).

    I'm surprised my daughter didn't bring home any talk of this from school (we're Canadian so she uses metric in Math class) as she's in Gr.7 and they were reviewing converting stuff by tens (m to cm; km to m; decameter to decimeter, etc.) I'm hoping we can find some more info on it without too much searching that she could bring to share with her class ๐Ÿ˜€

    BTW that is SUCH A GREAT SHIRT!!!! LOVE IT!

    Thanks for another great video Trace ๐Ÿ˜€ Will you be giving us an update soon about how life post-DNews is going, how you're feeling about it all now that there's a little bit of time passed, if it's going as you expected, etc.

  7. Finally. It should have happened one century ago. Now let's do another one century delayed thing: Invading 'Muricah and placing a metric convention flag on their White House.

  8. One unit of measurement that may be the difference between quantum effect and even gravity is a Plankxel. Like a plank unity it describes the universe time space like pixels. If a unit vibrates larger then a plank unit it will have gravity pulling other plank units into it, if smaller like light it has no mass but speed allows it to behave as if it will. As a particle draws across it blurs, and if other blurs combine it appears to have a wave like character like motion blur in photographs.

  9. There's something I've been thinking about recently. The U.S. is one of three countries that hasn't switched to the metric system, but in every science class I have ever taken or really any academic thing that has to do with some sort of measurement always uses the metric system.
    I know Day to day stuff isn't metric, but anything science based does. So can we really say that America doesn't use the metric system?

  10. Hi Trace !
    I'm a 81.6 Kg Canadian that's been a fan of your for quite some time. Figured I'd say this since you did say you respond to ALL comments ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have a question about our universe but not sure if it's got an answer…. We can see back 14B light years and even the first hydrogen star (faintly)… but, can we see any of space, that is newer then our galaxy ? I'm not sure if I got that question right… I think I do.. I mean, is the speed of light preventing us from seeing space in the direction we are expanding to ?

    Answer if you can, If you know Neil d. Tyson please ask him ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks, and great job Trace.

  11. Nine digits has always felt really short for something as important as the speed of light. 41 digits of pi gets you enough precision to account for all the atoms in the universe. Now that's helpful.

  12. America still won't go metric. I'm trying to decide if that's charming and folksy or sad and frightening. Maybe both?

  13. I'm I the only one who found the into incredibly off-putting. I'm very glad I am already into Trace because it was a good video and I would have left if I didn't already know the creator.

  14. "We in the US just need to convert to metric, already! Com'mon! We're basically using a crappy reskinned version of it anyways" YES!!! SAE and Imperial system is soooo messed up. 1/2, and half is 1/4, and half is 1/8, and half is 1/16, and half is 1/32, and half is 1/64. GAH!!! All these are in a tool box of sockets! So confusing when 7/16 socket doesn't quit fit, go down 1 size. Is that 6/16? NO! it's 13/32! WHA?!?! DOH!
    There was a time when there was an "attempt" to change over, or at least make it easier to do the math. We had speed limit signs that had 'both' mph and kph. After a few years, they changed all the signs 'back' to only mph because ppl where speeding using the kph value of the sign as the number on their mph value on their gauge. Morons!

  15. I'm SO here for all those puns.
    Thanks for keeping me up to date on these things we were taught in school and that can change and then you don't notice and in 20 years time you're teaching your kids false facts.

  16. whoa I love that โ€œI have a questionโ€ intro. I wonder, do you make your graphics yourself? If so, what proram do you use?

  17. i thought when i saw the title that they will replace it with the silicon sphere (if you know about it)

    great video by the way ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜

  18. Hey Trace! I'm trying to start a podcast with a format similar to what you did on Seeker Plus. Do you have any tips on note taking for the research? And what exactly are you reading on your computer to do the whole show in a few takes?! This would be so helpful for me! Thank you!! Love the way you host your content! Greetings from Mexico City!!

  19. Why should it be necessary for the US to completely switch to metric? Our engineers and scientist already use it and it's not too big of a hassle for us to switch our results to imperial units for ease of understanding. The imperial system is a cool part of the american rebellion culture… why take that away??

  20. Does anyone else want to respond to ads they see before videos? Trace, I'm sitting through a 3 minute ad for you, out of love and respect

  21. I like the explanation, but please note that the approved value of h was 6.626 070 15 X 10^-34 Js, see https://www.bipm.org/utils/common/pdf/CGPM-2018/26th-CGPM-Resolutions.pdf

  22. Do you think USA will ever converge to use SI Units? I grew up with old Imperial units in the UK but we've (mostly) switched to SI as the older generation dies out clutching their Betamax or 16rpm records. We still drink pints of beer (not litres) and keep our roadsigns in miles per hour, but otherwise it's predominantly SI units. What gives USA?

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