May 24, 2021 WHITEPAPERS
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me, while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them,” a statement that reflects the importance of reliable and repeated measurements for many different reasons and walks of life.
Just imagine a day in a life. Could be something like this, “Typical, got caught in a speed trap on the way to my friend’s barbecue tonight, great evening, music a bit loud, but the steak was grilled to perfection. Probably should have resisted the dessert – thanks Ben for letting me know it was 600 calories! Can’t afford to put on any more lockdown kilos – those jeans already feel a bit tight. Note to self: set the alarm for six, aim for a 50 km bike ride, don’t forget to track it on Strava. That means I might get to work a little later than usual – best to send my boss a mail. Oh, and yes put a bottle of water in the fridge ready for the morning. I’ll just make a cup of tea and check the weather for tomorrow before bed and lights out.”
Time, size, distance, speed, direction, weight, volume, temperature, pressure, force, sound, light, energy – recognise some of these in the text above? These are all physical properties that we measure and take for granted. Life as we know it would not be possible without measurement.
This was also apparent 5000 years ago when people started using standardised measuring units. In fact, the four great antique civilizations, China, India, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, have all had knowledge of metrology. At first, units of measure often related to parts of the human body: the digit, the hand, the foot, the pace, or the cup – the volume you can hold in two hands – and in addition to weight and measures, the controlled consistency in measurements also included time, distance, and area.
Metrology guaranteed uniform measurements, not only giving the ruler or state the basis needed to collect taxes, but also provide the trust and confidence needed in measurement to ensure the integrity of trade and commerce.
Egypt gets its cubits right!
One of the earliest known units used to measure length is the Egyptian cubit. Dating back to the third millennium BC, it was the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger.