Book on history of measurement- Beyond Measure

StevSmar

(Steven)
Premium Member
I was reading a New Scientist magazine and it reviewed this book:
(Link to book on Amazon below
Beyond Measure on Amazon.ca
)

It’s scheduled to be released this coming November, it looks like it will be right up my alley.

Beyond Measure​

James Vincent

Faber

WE TAKE the certainty of measurements for granted, but their story is as complicated and changeable as any other part of human culture. Journalist James Vincent makes this clear in his new book, which explores the history of calculating things.

Beyond Measure is a pacy romp through time and space, moving from ancient Egyptians with their body-centric measuring systems to present-day scientists seeking to standardise measurement. But it isn’t just the stories of the rule-makers: measurement has been as much about dispute as diktat, and Vincent explains how important the standardisation of weights and measures was and is for all of us.

He starts with familiar stories about how measurement has changed – from decimalisation to the trouble with Le Grand K, the 133-year-old kilogram cylinder in a vault within the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France, which had a nasty habit of losing weight.

Then we learn about small objects with a big impact, such as the strickle, a stick used to smooth off the top of a grain container to create a reliable, fair measure. But we also get a bird’s eye view: a chapter on why the US has its famous grid system of roads is particularly enlightening.

Vincent tells a story of a world constantly in flux, of tested measurements we assumed had been around forever popping up more recently than we thought, while other superannuated means of measuring just stick around.

We also meet traditionalists, holding out against what is often seen as the natural evolution of weights and measures. Vincent goes on a guerrilla mission with the Active Resistance to Metrication (ARM), a British campaign group hoping to retain imperial units, as they alter road signs in Thaxted, south-east England.

ARM may seem extreme, but wars have been fought over how we measure things. For example, the book highlights how conflict over measurements was a key part of the French Revolution.

Yet Vincent also shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We think we are better than our predecessors at accounting for and enforcing the reliability of a metre, kilogram or day. But as Vincent writes, we frequently betray that claim to precision: “We explain to a friend that the next pub is just a five-minute bike ride away, or that the beach is just an hour’s drive.” More recently, we have estimated walks in podcast lengths, or flights in the number of movies crammed in.

So why do we keep hold of such personal measures? It is here that Vincent is at his most lucid – and where the book’s point becomes clear. “They transfer information from an objective realm of distance to a subjective one of experience,” he writes. “They allow us to contextualise the world around us, and make sense of it.”

Chris Stokel-Walker is a technology journalist based in Newcastle, UK
 

LenVW

Process Manager, Machinery Designer & Builder
Premium Member
I was reading a New Scientist magazine and it reviewed this book:
(Link to book on Amazon below
Beyond Measure on Amazon.ca
)

It’s scheduled to be released this coming November, it looks like it will be right up my alley.

Beyond Measure​

James Vincent

Faber

WE TAKE the certainty of measurements for granted, but their story is as complicated and changeable as any other part of human culture. Journalist James Vincent makes this clear in his new book, which explores the history of calculating things.

Beyond Measure is a pacy romp through time and space, moving from ancient Egyptians with their body-centric measuring systems to present-day scientists seeking to standardise measurement. But it isn’t just the stories of the rule-makers: measurement has been as much about dispute as diktat, and Vincent explains how important the standardisation of weights and measures was and is for all of us.

He starts with familiar stories about how measurement has changed – from decimalisation to the trouble with Le Grand K, the 133-year-old kilogram cylinder in a vault within the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France, which had a nasty habit of losing weight.

Then we learn about small objects with a big impact, such as the strickle, a stick used to smooth off the top of a grain container to create a reliable, fair measure. But we also get a bird’s eye view: a chapter on why the US has its famous grid system of roads is particularly enlightening.

Vincent tells a story of a world constantly in flux, of tested measurements we assumed had been around forever popping up more recently than we thought, while other superannuated means of measuring just stick around.

We also meet traditionalists, holding out against what is often seen as the natural evolution of weights and measures. Vincent goes on a guerrilla mission with the Active Resistance to Metrication (ARM), a British campaign group hoping to retain imperial units, as they alter road signs in Thaxted, south-east England.

ARM may seem extreme, but wars have been fought over how we measure things. For example, the book highlights how conflict over measurements was a key part of the French Revolution.

Yet Vincent also shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We think we are better than our predecessors at accounting for and enforcing the reliability of a metre, kilogram or day. But as Vincent writes, we frequently betray that claim to precision: “We explain to a friend that the next pub is just a five-minute bike ride away, or that the beach is just an hour’s drive.” More recently, we have estimated walks in podcast lengths, or flights in the number of movies crammed in.

So why do we keep hold of such personal measures? It is here that Vincent is at his most lucid – and where the book’s point becomes clear. “They transfer information from an objective realm of distance to a subjective one of experience,” he writes. “They allow us to contextualise the world around us, and make sense of it.”

Chris Stokel-Walker is a technology journalist based in Newcastle, UK
Growing up in the Imperial Units and then also learning the Metric System in my teens has brought forward fitting applications of each.
I am still developing practical examples of the Metric System where as the Imperial Units have been burned into my mind from childhood.

We in Canada have had to learn both systems primarily because we interact with American manufacturers and have used their ‘inch- based’ products for the last 100 years.

Now, as more manufacturing is moving to Asia, there may be a greater acceptance of metric units for industrial equipment.
But, I have observed that many Asian manufacturers are building units with Imperial Units.
The lead screw on my 2021 Mini-Mill has a Pitch of 0.0625” and the Spindle is an R8.

Hopefully the advantages of the metric system will not be lost.
 

Susquatch

Ultra Member
Moderator
Premium Member
Growing up in the Imperial Units and then also learning the Metric System in my teens has brought forward fitting applications of each.
I am still developing practical examples of the Metric System where as the Imperial Units have been burned into my mind from childhood.

We in Canada have had to learn both systems primarily because we interact with American manufacturers and have used their ‘inch- based’ products for the last 100 years.

Now, as more manufacturing is moving to Asia, there may be a greater acceptance of metric units for industrial equipment.
But, I have observed that many Asian manufacturers are building units with Imperial Units.
The lead screw on my 2021 Mini-Mill has a Pitch of 0.0625” and the Spindle is an R8.

Hopefully the advantages of the metric system will not be lost.

Not likely. Both will stay for the rest of our lives.

And if I had my way we would all be octal. If only we didn't include our thumbs when we developed decimal. Octal would have been orders of magnitude better than metric or imperial.
 

Chicken lights

Forum Pony Express Driver
Premium Member
Growing up in the Imperial Units and then also learning the Metric System in my teens has brought forward fitting applications of each.
I am still developing practical examples of the Metric System where as the Imperial Units have been burned into my mind from childhood.

We in Canada have had to learn both systems primarily because we interact with American manufacturers and have used their ‘inch- based’ products for the last 100 years.

Now, as more manufacturing is moving to Asia, there may be a greater acceptance of metric units for industrial equipment.
But, I have observed that many Asian manufacturers are building units with Imperial Units.
The lead screw on my 2021 Mini-Mill has a Pitch of 0.0625” and the Spindle is an R8.

Hopefully the advantages of the metric system will not be lost.
The metric system is useless :D
 

Susquatch

Ultra Member
Moderator
Premium Member
I'm a hexadecimal man myself ;)

Hex is just octal on steroids.

I liked hex too, but the thing about octal is that it might have actually happened. If we had just left our thumbs out when we counted.

Of course, if we used our hands AND feet AND left our thumbs and big toes out, we would all be hex!

So ya, hex is octal on steroids! Just imagine how easy math would be...... We could all do complicated math in our heads and computers wouldn't need to waste time cycling back and forth through conversion subroutines just so regular users could understand the input and output!
 
Top