I’m pretty sure the scale at my gym, has a serious personality disorder. And the trouble is, its unstable temperament, rubs off on all those who stand upon it. It has a nasty habit of declaring that the occupant is heavier, even when there is no apparent evidence.
Giving your scale, the cold-shoulder, may be a little unfair.
Scales around the world are potentially in trouble, because researchers have just uncovered something deeply disturbing.
The kilogram is getting heavier.
The difference is not huge, but just like the world is getting heavier – so is the kilogram.
The kilogram that is putting on weight, is the world’s official kilogram, known as the International Prototype Kilogram or IPK for short.
This very special kilogram, which is locked away in a vault in Paris, was fashioned out of exactly 1 kg of platinum in 1875. Following its creation, a law was passed, declaring that it is “THE KILOGRAM”.
The IPK kilogram ensures that a kilogram is always a kilogram, whether you were weighing something in Beijing, Paris or Johannesburg
But, this very special kilogram has picked up weight.
So has its friends. In 1884, 40 replicas were created, these were dispatched to different cities around the world.
Weighing and measuring THE KILOGRAM
Using the Theta probe XPS machine, a one of its kind machine, researchers discovered that the kilogram has picked up bits of soot and grime.
These chemical bits that are clinging to the surface, have caused the kilogram to pick up a few micrograms, that is thousands of a gram.
But, the rate at which these reference kilograms are picking up weight is different….
And this is the thing, everyone’s kilogram needs to be the same.
Good for some, bad for others
Now this is serious…. if a kilogram is no longer a kilogram, then…
when you’re weighing out very valuable things, such as gold and platinum, you may end up being short changed. Getting it wrong is money, BIG MONEY.
Of course, getting it wrong for us regular Joes is comforting.
If the scale suggests you’ve put on weight – you are quite within your rights to question its opinion. And it is worthwhile to seek a second opinion, based on a more favourable reference kilogram.
Losing the extra weight
Turns out, now that the problem has been pinpointed, fixing it is really easy.
All that isneeded was for the kilogram to lose those extra micrograms is a stint out of the vault, in the sun. The sun and ozone will melt the carbonaceous junk away.
Keep an eye on the number
Officials plan to keep an eye on “THE KILOGRAM” and its friends, and they’re exploring other ways of making sure all scales read true.
You should keep an eye on your number too. Watch out – the numbers on the scale should not add up.
Use this free chart to help you.Stability of reference masses V: UV/ozone treatment of gold and platinum surfaces. Metrologia (2013) 50 (1): 27 Peter Cumpson, Naoko Sano.
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