Scientists left baffled

as the official kilo loses weight

January 24, 2011 – 10:36AM
A computer-generated image of the international prototype kilogram, which is kept in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris.A computer-generated image of the international prototype kilogram, which is kept in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris.

Scientists say they are moving closer to coming up with a non-physical definition of the kilo after discovering the metal artefact used as the international standard had shed a fraction of its weight.

Researchers caution there is still some way to go before their mission is complete, but if successful it would lead to the end of the useful life of the last manufactured object on which fundamental units of measure depend.

At the moment, the international standard for the kilo is a chunk of metal, under triple lock-and-key in France since 1889.

But scientists became concerned about the cylinder of platinum and iridium housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, near Paris, after discovering it had mysteriously lost a minute amount of weight.

Experts at the institute revealed in 2007 that the metal chunk is 50 micrograms lighter than the average of several dozen copies, meaning it had lost the equivalent of a small grain of sand.

They are now searching for a non-physical way of defining the kilo, which would bring it in line with the six other base units that make up the International System of Units

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha