HOME
The Info List - Units Of Measurement


--- Advertisement ---



A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude of a quantity, defined and adopted by convention or by law, that is used as a standard for measurement of the same kind of quantity.[1] Any other quantity of that kind can be expressed as a multiple of the unit of measurement. For example, a length is a physical quantity. The metre is a unit of length that represents a definite predetermined length. When we say 10 metres (or 10 m), we actually mean 10 times the definite predetermined length called "metre". Measurement
Measurement
is a process of determining how large or small a physical quantity is as compared to a basic reference quantity of the same kind. The definition, agreement, and practical use of units of measurement have played a crucial role in human endeavour from early ages up to the present. A multitude of systems of units used to be very common. Now there is a global standard, the International System of Units (SI), the modern form of the metric system. In trade, weights and measures is often a subject of governmental regulation, to ensure fairness and transparency. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) is tasked with ensuring worldwide uniformity of measurements and their traceability to the International System of Units
International System of Units
(SI). Metrology
Metrology
is the science of developing nationally and internationally accepted units of measurement. In physics and metrology, units are standards for measurement of physical quantities that need clear definitions to be useful. Reproducibility
Reproducibility
of experimental results is central to the scientific method. A standard system of units facilitates this. Scientific systems of units are a refinement of the concept of weights and measures historically developed for commercial purposes. Science, medicine, and engineering often use larger and smaller units of measurement than those used in everyday life. The judicious selection of the units of measurement can aid researchers in problem solving (see, for example, dimensional analysis). In the social sciences, there are no standard units of measurement and the theory and practice of measurement is studied in psychometrics and the theory of conjoint measurement.

Contents

1 History 2 Systems of units

2.1 Traditional systems 2.2 Metric systems 2.3 Natural systems 2.4 Legal control of weights and measures

3 Base and derived units 4 Calculations with units of measurement

4.1 Units as dimensions 4.2 Expressing a physical value in terms of another unit

5 Real-world implications 6 See also 7 Notes 8 External links

History[edit] Main article: History of measurement A unit of measurement is a standardised quantity of a physical property, used as a factor to express occurring quantities of that property. Units of measurement
Units of measurement
were among the earliest tools invented by humans. Primitive societies needed rudimentary measures for many tasks: constructing dwellings of an appropriate size and shape, fashioning clothing, or bartering food or raw materials. The earliest known uniform systems of measurement seem to have all been created sometime in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC among the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley, and perhaps also Elam
Elam
in Persia as well. Weights and measures are mentioned in the Bible
Bible
(Leviticus 19:35–36). It is a commandment to be honest and have fair measures. In the Magna Carta
Magna Carta
of 1215 (The Great Charter) with the seal of King John, put before him by the Barons of England, King John agreed in Clause 35 "There shall be one measure of wine throughout our whole realm, and one measure of ale and one measure of corn—namely, the London quart;—and one width of dyed and russet and hauberk cloths—namely, two ells below the selvage..." As of the 21st Century, multiple unit systems are used all over the world such as the United States
United States
Customary System, the British Customary System, and the International System. However, the United States is the only industrialized country that has not yet completely converted to the Metric System. The systematic effort to develop a universally acceptable system of units dates back to 1790 when the French National Assembly charged the French Academy of Sciences to come up such a unit system. This system was the precursor to the metric system which was quickly developed in France
France
but did not take on universal acceptance until 1875 when The Metric Convention Treaty was signed by 17 nations. After this treaty was signed, a General Conference of Weights and Measures (CGPM) was established. The CGPM produced the current SI system which was adopted in 1954 at the 10th conference of weights and measures. Currently, the United States
United States
is a dual-system society which uses both the SI system and the US Customary system.[2] Systems of units[edit] Main article: System of measurement Traditional systems[edit] Historically many of the systems of measurement which had been in use were to some extent based on the dimensions of the human body. As a result, units of measure could vary not only from location to location, but from person to person. Metric systems[edit] A number of metric systems of units have evolved since the adoption of the original metric system in France
France
in 1791. The current international standard metric system is the International System of Units (abbreviated to SI). An important feature of modern systems is standardization. Each unit has a universally recognized size.

An example of metrication in 1860 when Tuscany became part of modern Italy (ex. one "libbra" = 339.54 grams)

Both the imperial units and US customary units
US customary units
derive from earlier English units. Imperial units
Imperial units
were mostly used in the British Commonwealth and the former British Empire. US customary units
US customary units
are still the main system of measurement used in the United States
United States
despite Congress having legally authorised metric measure on 28 July 1866.[3] Some steps towards US metrication have been made, particularly the redefinition of basic US and imperial units to derive exactly from SI units. Since the international yard and pound agreement of 1959 the US and imperial inch is now defined as exactly 6998254000000000000♠0.0254 m, and the US and imperial avoirdupois pound is now defined as exactly 6999453592370000000♠453.59237 g.[4] Natural systems[edit] While the above systems of units are based on arbitrary unit values, formalised as standards, some unit values occur naturally in science. Systems of units based on these are called natural units. Similar to natural units, atomic units (au) are a convenient system of units of measurement used in atomic physics. Also a great number of unusual and non-standard units may be encountered. These may include the solar mass (7030200000000000000♠2×1030 kg), the megaton (the energy released by detonating one million tons of trinitrotoluene, TNT) and the electronvolt. Legal control of weights and measures[edit] Main articles: Weights and Measures Act and Trading standards To reduce the incidence of retail fraud, many national statutes have standard definitions of weights and measures that may be used (hence "statute measure"), and these are verified by legal officers. Base and derived units[edit] Different systems of units are based on different choices of a set of base units. The most widely used system of units is the International System of Units, or SI. There are seven SI base units. All other SI units can be derived from these base units. For most quantities a unit is necessary to communicate values of that physical quantity. For example, conveying to someone a particular length without using some sort of unit is impossible, because a length cannot be described without a reference used to make sense of the value given. But not all quantities require a unit of their own. Using physical laws, units of quantities can be expressed as combinations of units of other quantities. Thus only a small set of units is required. These units are taken as the base units. Other units are derived units. Derived units are a matter of convenience, as they can be expressed in terms of basic units. Which units are considered base units is a matter of choice. The base units of SI are actually not the smallest set possible. Smaller sets have been defined. For example, there are unit sets in which the electric and magnetic field have the same unit.[citation needed] This is based on physical laws that show that electric and magnetic field are actually different manifestations of the same phenomenon. Calculations with units of measurement[edit] Units as dimensions[edit] Any value of a physical quantity is expressed as a comparison to a unit of that quantity. For example, the value of a physical quantity Z is expressed as the product of a unit [Z] and a numerical factor:

Z = n × [ Z ] = n [ Z ] .

displaystyle Z=ntimes [Z]=n[Z].

For example, let

Z

displaystyle Z

be "2 candlesticks", then

Z = 2 [ Z ] = 2

displaystyle Z=2[Z]=2

candlestick.

The multiplication sign is usually left out, just as it is left out between variables in scientific notation of formulas. The conventions used to express quantities is referred to as quantity calculus. In formulas the unit [Z] can be treated as if it were a specific magnitude of a kind of physical dimension: see dimensional analysis for more on this treatment. Units can only be added or subtracted if they are the same type; however units can always be multiplied or divided, as George Gamow used to explain. Let

Z

1

displaystyle Z_ 1

be "2 candlesticks" and

Z

2

displaystyle Z_ 2

"3 cabdrivers", then

"2 candlesticks" times "3 cabdrivers"

= 6 [

Z

1

] [

Z

2

] = 6

displaystyle =6[Z_ 1 ][Z_ 2 ]=6

candlestick

×

displaystyle times

cabdriver.

A distinction should be made between units and standards. A unit is fixed by its definition, and is independent of physical conditions such as temperature. By contrast, a standard is a physical realization of a unit, and realizes that unit only under certain physical conditions. For example, the metre is a unit, while a metal bar is a standard. One
One
metre is the same length regardless of temperature, but a metal bar will be exactly one metre long only at a certain temperature. There are certain rules that have to be used when dealing with units:

Treat units algebraically. Only add like terms. When a unit is divided by itself, the division yields a unitless one. When two different units are multiplied or divided, the result is a new unit, referred to by the combination of the units. For instance, in SI, the unit of speed is metres per second (m/s). See dimensional analysis. A unit can be multiplied by itself, creating a unit with an exponent (e.g. m2/s2). Put simply, units obey the laws of indices. (See Exponentiation.) Some units have special names, however these should be treated like their equivalents. For example, one newton (N) is equivalent to 1 kg⋅m/s2. Thus a quantity may have several unit designations, for example: the unit for surface tension can be referred to as either N/m (newtons per metre) or kg/s2 (kilograms per second squared). Whether these designations are equivalent is disputed amongst metrologists.[5]

Expressing a physical value in terms of another unit[edit] Conversion of units
Conversion of units
involves comparison of different standard physical values, either of a single physical quantity or of a physical quantity and a combination of other physical quantities. Starting with:

Z =

n

i

× [ Z

]

i

displaystyle Z=n_ i times [Z]_ i

just replace the original unit

[ Z

]

i

displaystyle [Z]_ i

with its meaning in terms of the desired unit

[ Z

]

j

displaystyle [Z]_ j

, e.g. if

[ Z

]

i

=

c

i j

× [ Z

]

j

displaystyle [Z]_ i =c_ ij times [Z]_ j

, then:

Z =

n

i

× (

c

i j

× [ Z

]

j

) = (

n

i

×

c

i j

) × [ Z

]

j

displaystyle Z=n_ i times (c_ ij times [Z]_ j )=(n_ i times c_ ij )times [Z]_ j

Now

n

i

displaystyle n_ i

and

c

i j

displaystyle c_ ij

are both numerical values, so just calculate their product. Or, which is just mathematically the same thing, multiply Z by unity, the product is still Z:

Z =

n

i

× [ Z

]

i

× (

c

i j

× [ Z

]

j

/

[ Z

]

i

)

displaystyle Z=n_ i times [Z]_ i times (c_ ij times [Z]_ j /[Z]_ i )

For example, you have an expression for a physical value Z involving the unit feet per second (

[ Z

]

i

displaystyle [Z]_ i

) and you want it in terms of the unit miles per hour (

[ Z

]

j

displaystyle [Z]_ j

):

Find facts relating the original unit to the desired unit:

1 mile = 5280 feet and 1 hour = 3600 seconds

Next use the above equations to construct a fraction that has a value of unity and that contains units such that, when it is multiplied with the original physical value, will cancel the original units:

1 =

1

m i

5280

f t

a n d

1 =

3600

s

1

h

displaystyle 1= frac 1,mathrm mi 5280,mathrm ft quad mathrm and quad 1= frac 3600,mathrm s 1,mathrm h

Last, multiply the original expression of the physical value by the fraction, called a conversion factor, to obtain the same physical value expressed in terms of a different unit. Note: since valid conversion factors are dimensionless and have a numerical value of one, multiplying any physical quantity by such a conversion factor (which is 1) does not change that physical quantity.

52.8

f t

s

= 52.8

f t

s

1

m i

5280

f t

3600

s

1

h

=

52.8 × 3600

5280

m i

/

h

= 36

m i

/

h

displaystyle 52.8, frac mathrm ft mathrm s =52.8, frac mathrm ft mathrm s frac 1,mathrm mi 5280,mathrm ft frac 3600,mathrm s 1,mathrm h = frac 52.8times 3600 5280 ,mathrm mi/h =36,mathrm mi/h

Or as an example using the metric system, you have a value of fuel economy in the unit litres per 100 kilometres and you want it in terms of the unit microlitres per metre:

9

L

100

k m

=

9

L

100

k m

1000000

μ L

1

L

1

k m

1000

m

=

9 × 1000000

100 × 1000

μ L

/

m

= 90

μ L

/

m

displaystyle mathrm frac 9, rm L 100, rm km =mathrm frac 9, rm L 100, rm km mathrm frac 1000000, rm mu L 1, rm L mathrm frac 1, rm km 1000, rm m = frac 9times 1000000 100times 1000 ,mathrm mu L/m =90,mathrm mu L/m

Real-world implications[edit] One
One
example of the importance of agreed units is the failure of the NASA
NASA
Mars Climate Orbiter, which was accidentally destroyed on a mission to Mars in September 1999 instead of entering orbit due to miscommunications about the value of forces: different computer programs used different units of measurement (newton versus pound force). Considerable amounts of effort, time, and money were wasted.[6][7] On 15 April 1999, Korean Air
Korean Air
cargo flight 6316 from Shanghai
Shanghai
to Seoul was lost due to the crew confusing tower instructions (in metres) and altimeter readings (in feet). Three crew and five people on the ground were killed. Thirty-seven were injured.[8][9] In 1983, a Boeing 767 (which came to be known as the Gimli Glider) ran out of fuel in mid-flight because of two mistakes in figuring the fuel supply of Air Canada's first aircraft to use metric measurements.[10] This accident was the result of both confusion due to the simultaneous use of metric and Imperial measures and confusion of mass and volume measures. See also[edit]

List of humorous units of measurement List of unusual units of measurement GNU Units Unified Code for Units of Measure United States
United States
customary units System of measurement Unit of account Units of information

v t e

Systems of measurement

Current

General

International System of Units
International System of Units
(SI) UK imperial system US customary units Myanmar Indian

Specific

Apothecaries' Avoirdupois Troy Astronomical Electrical Temperature

Natural

atomic geometrised Gaussian Lorentz–Heaviside Planck quantum chromodynamical Stoney

Background

Metric

Overview Introduction Outline History Metrication

UK/US

Overview Comparison Foot–pound–second (FPS)

Historic

Metric

metre–kilogram–second (MKS) metre–tonne–second (MTS) centimetre–gram–second (CGS) gravitational quadrant–eleventh-gram–second (QES) (hebdometre–undecimogramme–second (HUS))

Europe

Byzantine Cornish Cypriot Czech Danish Dutch English Estonian Finnish French (Trad. • Mesures usuelles) German Greek Hungary Icelandic Irish Scottish Italian Latvia Luxembourgian Maltese Norwegian Ottoman Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Spanish Swedish Switzerland Welsh Winchester measure

Asia

Afghan Cambodian Chinese Hindu Hong Kong India Indonesian Japanese Korean Mongolian Omani Philippine Pegu Singaporean Sri Lankan Syrian Taiwanese Tatar Thai Vietnamese

Africa

Algerian Ethiopian Egyptian Eritrean Guinean Libyan Malagasy Mauritian Moroccan Seychellois Somalian South African Tunisian Tanzanian

North America

Costa Rican Cuban Haitian Honduran Mexico Nicaraguan Puerto Rican

South America

Argentine Brazilian Chilean Colombian Paraguayan Peruvian Uruguayan Venezuelan

Ancient

Arabic Biblical and Talmudic Egyptian Greek Hindu Indian Mesopotamian Persian Roman

List articles

Humorous (FFF system) Obsolete Unusual

Other

N-body Modulor

Notes[edit]

^ "measurement unit", in International Vocabulary of Metrology – Basic and General Concepts and Associated Terms (VIM) (PDF) (3rd ed.), Joint Committee for Guides in Metrology, 2008, pp. 6–7 . ^ Yunus A. Çengel & Michael A. Boles (2002). Thermodynamics: An Engineering
Engineering
Approach (Eighth ed.). TN: McGraw Hill. p. 996. ISBN 9780073398174. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link) ^ "US Metric Act of 1866". Archived from the original on 10 October 2014.  as amended by Public Law 110–69 dated 9 August 2007 ^ "NIST Handbook 44 Appendix B". National Institute of Standards and Technology. 2002. Archived from the original on 13 February 2007.  ^ Emerson, W.H. (2008). "On quantity calculus and units of measurement". Metrologia. 45 (2): 134–138. Bibcode:2008Metro..45..134E. doi:10.1088/0026-1394/45/2/002.  ^ "Unit Mixups". US Metric Association. Archived from the original on 23 September 2010.  ^ " Mars Climate Orbiter
Mars Climate Orbiter
Mishap Investigation Board Phase I Report" (PDF). NASA. 10 November 1999.  ^ " Korean Air
Korean Air
Flight 6316" (Press release). NTSB. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006.  ^ " Korean Air
Korean Air
incident". Aviation Safety Net. Archived from the original on 31 July 2013.  ^ Witkin, Richard (30 July 1983). "Jet's Fuel Ran Out After Metric Conversion Errors". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2007. Air Canada said yesterday that its Boeing 767 jet ran out of fuel in mid-flight last week because of two mistakes in figuring the fuel supply of the airline's first aircraft to use metric measurements. After both engines lost their power, the pilots made what is now thought to be the first successful emergency dead stick landing of a commercial jetliner. 

External links[edit]

Rowlett, Russ (2005) A Dictionary of Units of Measurement
Measurement
– Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill NIST Handbook 44, Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices Official SI website Quantity System Framework – Quantity System Library and Calculator for Units Conversions and Quantities predictions List of units with selected conversion factors

Historical

"Arithmetic Conventions for Conversion Between Roman [i.e. Ottoman] and Egyptian Measurement" is a manuscript from 1642, in Arabic, which is about units of measurement.

Legal

Ireland – Metrology
Metrology
Act 1996 Text of the Units of Measurement
Measurement
Regulations 1995 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk

Metric information and associations

BIPM (official site) UK Metric Association US Metric Association The Unified Code for Units of Measure (UCUM)

Imperial measure information

British Weights and Me

.