Members of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures met in Saint-Cloud, Paris – as they do every four years – and took the decision to expand the world’s measuring unit systems for the first time this century, on Friday, 18 November.
NEW UNITS OF MEASUREMENT
The Associated Press reports that British scientist, Dr Richard Brown, the head of Metrology at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, proposed four new prefixes and presented them to officials from 64 member nations.
The General Conference on Weights and Measurements is the apex authority of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures and any new terms that are accepted are effective immediately.
“Most people are familiar with prefixes like milli- as in milligram. But these are prefixes for the biggest and smallest levels ever measured.
“In the last 30 years, the datasphere has increased exponentially, and data scientists have realized they will no longer have words to describe the levels of storage. These terms are upcoming, the future,” said Brown to AP.
The new International System of Units (SI) prefixes are ‘ronna (R)’, which will see 27 zeros after the one, and the greater ‘quetta (Q)’ – 30 zeros. At the other end, ‘ronto (r)’ will see 27 zeros after the decimal point and ‘quetto (q)’ will have 30.
Scientists felt it was important to introduce official measurements before unofficial prefix names take hold in other communities. Data scientists may also need to express quantities of digital information using orders of magnitude beyond 1024 (yotta).
The last SI prefixes introduced in 1991 were zetta, zepto, yotta and yocto.
For perspective, Brown said an electron’s mass is one rontogram, while Jupiter’s mass is two quettagrams and the entire observable universe is just one ronnameter.
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