This Week in STEM: Weight, What Happened?

This Week in STEM: Weight, What Happened?

Blog Contributed by Dr. Christopher Murphy, Chief Growth & Communications Officer


Weight, what happened?


Since 1879 in Versailles, France, a shiny cylinder of platinum iridium has lived under lock and key as the fundamental unit of mass on a physical object.  


However, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures recently decided to retire this hunk of metal as the operational definition of physical mass in favor of a “small, strange figure from quantum physics known as Planck’s constant, which describes the smallest possible unit of energy.”


You’ll recall from high school physics that Einstein theorized that energy is mass (you know, E=mc2), and apparently, using a mathematical figure in calculations is a bit more accurate that referring to a reclusive piece of metal.


While the figures and calculations may be confusing, rest assured- you’ll still get the same amount of beef in your quarter-pounder, or is that a Royale with cheese?


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Earth as a new, very dusty Moon

Galactic space dust accounts for a cloud nearly nine times the size of Earth and (only) 250,000 miles away, roughly the same distance as our well-known and long-observed Moon.


After a debate lasting a generation, the Kordylewski cloud, named for the Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski who first glimpsed it in 1961, has formally been recognized as a natural companion to Earth.


The cloud is composed of individual dust particles that are only micrometers in size, yet the whole composition is quite exspansive. So expansive that scientists are interested in how and why these particles have collected en masse- giving birth to the concept of a galactic rest stop of sorts. This information is guiding further research into interplanetary travel as a calm place to conserve energy.


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