A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude of a physical quantity, defined and adopted by convention and/or by law, that is used as a standard for measurement of the same physical quantity. Any other value of the physical quantity can be expressed as a simple multiple of the unit of measurement.
For example, 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".
The definition, agreement, and practical use of units of measurement have played a crucial role in human endeavour from early ages up to this day. Disparate 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 Bureau international des poids et mesures (BIPM) is tasked with ensuring worldwide uniformity of measurements and their traceability to the International System of Units (SI). Metrology is the science for developing national and internationally accepted units of weights and measures.
In physics and metrology, units are standards for measurement of physical quantities that need clear definitions to be useful. 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 developed long ago for commercial purposes.
Science, medicine, and engineering often use larger and smaller units of measurement than those used in everyday life and indicate them more precisely. The judicious selection of the units of measurement can aid researchers in problem solving (see, for example, dimensional analysis).
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 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 weights and measures 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 in Persia as well.
In "The 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….". The Magna Carta helped lay the foundations of freedom codified in English Law and subsequently American Law.
Many systems were based on the use of parts of the body and the natural surroundings as measuring instruments. Our present knowledge of early weights and measures comes from many sources.
Prior to the near global adoption of the metric system many different systems of measurement had been in use. Many of these were related to some extent or other. Often they were based on the dimensions of the human body according to the proportions described by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. As a result, units of measure could vary not only from location to location, but from person to person.
A number of metric systems of units have evolved since the adoption of the original metric system in France in 1791. The current international standard metric system is the International system of units. An important feature of modern systems is standardization. Each unit has a universally recognized size.
Both the Imperial units and US customary units derive from earlier English units. Imperial units were mostly used in the British Commonwealth and the former British Empire. US customary units are still the main system of measurement used in the United States despite Congress having legally authorized metric measure on 28 July 1866. Some steps towards US metrication have been made, particularly the redefinition of basic US units to derive exactly from SI units, so that in the US the inch is now defined as 0.0254 m (exactly), and the avoirdupois pound is now defined as 453.59237 g (exactly)
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.
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.
Different systems of units are based on different choices of a set of fundamental 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 absolutely 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. This is based on physical laws that show that electric and magnetic field are actually different manifestations of the same phenomenon.
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:
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.
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 metre is the same length regardless of temperature, but a metal bar will be one metre long only at a certain temperature.
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.
just replace the original unit [Z]i with its meaning in terms of the desired unit [Z]j, e.g. if , then:
Now ni and cij 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:
For example, you have an expression for a physical value Z involving the unit feet per second ([Z]i) and you want it in terms of the unit miles per hour ([Z]j):
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:
One example of the importance of agreed units is the failure of the NASA Mars Climate Orbiter, which was accidentally destroyed on a mission to the planet 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). Enormous amounts of effort, time, and money were wasted.
On April 15, 1999 Korean Air cargo flight 6316 from 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.
In 1983, a Boeing 767 (which came to be know 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. This accident is apparently the result of confusion both due to the simultaneous use of metric & Imperial measures as well as mass & volume measures.
| The English used in this article or section may not be easy for everybody to understand.
You can help Wikipedia by making this page or section simpler.
Saying something has a length of 2 metres therefore means that it is exactly twice as long as that rod used to define the metre, or that light takes twice the time defined for a metre to travel that distance.
This also makes it easy to say that something that is 3 metres long is longer than something else, that is only 2 metres long.
Today, most units of measure fall into one of two systems. The older, imperial system uses the foot as a mesure of length, the pound as a mesure for weight and the second as a measure for time. There are other units as well. Most of the time 12 or 16 of the smaller unit make the bigger unit. This is difficult to remember, so there is another system that uses 10 of the smaller unit to make the bigger one. It is known as the SI system or metric system. It uses the metre for length, the kilogram for weight, and the second for time.
For example, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France is 300 meters tall. That is, the distance from the top to the bottom of the Eiffel Tower is 300 meters. The property of the Eiffel Tower being measured is a distance. The number measured is 300. This number does not make sense without the unit of measure. The unit of measure is the meter.
Standards are used in measurements. That is, the unit of measurement used to measure a property is the same everywhere and does not change. This makes measurement easier and comparisons between measurements easier.
There are units of measurement of different sizes. There are small units of measurement to measure small things. There are big units of measurement to measure big things.
Science, medicine and engineering use smaller units of measurement to measure small things with less error. It is easier to measure large things using larger units of measurement. Large measurements like the width of a galaxy and small measurements like the mass of an atom use special units of measurement.
There are many different standards and units used all over the world.
Units of measure in the metric system include:
Imperial units were used in countries that were part of the British Empire, however they can be different in different countries. For example, the fluid ounce in Britain is smaller than the fluid ounce in the US, but the US gallon is smaller than the British gallon. The imperial units are now used mainly in the United States. While many countries have officially adopted SI, older system of units are still used. In the United States, the metric system has been legal for trade since 1866 but other measurements such as the gallon, inch, and the pound are still widely used.
Imperial units of measurement include:
The ounces for weight and volume are different. Even when measuring water, the number of ounces of weight is not the same as the number of fluid ounces.
The unit of time is the second. The minute (60 seconds) and hour (60 minutes or 3600 seconds) are larger units. A day is usually said to be 24 hours, but is actually a small bit longer. This difference is corrected at the end of every year. A week (7 days) and month are also standard units.
A unit of measurement that applies to money is called a unit of account. This is normally a currency issued by a country. For instance, the United States use dollars. Each dollar is 100 cents. The United Kingdom uses pounds. Each pound is 100 pennies or pence. Other countries in Europe use the Euro which is 100 cent for the Euro they are not called "cents")