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A documentary film about the Kilogram and the scientific efforts to redefine it.
A documentary film about the Kilogram and the scientific efforts to redefine it.
174 backers pledged $27,038 to help bring this project to life.

Update, blog post about Colonial weights and measures

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Update and some information about a forthcoming book

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Research highlights in public understanding of metrication (which is more photogenic than it sounds)

Dear Friends,

As one of my aims for the State of the Unit is to help the general public understand what the redefinition of the kilogram will mean (and how it came about), I am naturally interested in examples of public instruction on measurement. There is quite a precedent in the history of the kilogram. Michael Trott, the film's science advisor, has bought some books—very, very old books, i.e., 1790s—that teach the newly invented and launched metric system to the general public of France. 

On the film's blog, I have put together some thoughts about the public instruction one can glean from these books and from the demands for standardized weights and measures published the summer before the French Revolution: "Metrication in 1790s France: When people got what they asked for, but not what they wanted

Even today, a little pocket ruler matches the standard published in Year III, or what you would call 1795.
Even today, a little pocket ruler matches the standard published in Year III, or what you would call 1795.

Things are going well for me and this project, and I hope you enjoy the blog post. Scroll down for many pictures of the books! :D

Sincerely,

Amy

A bit more live-action filming: Colonial measures and education in Early America

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Dear Friends,

After learning about standardization in 1790s France in everything from measures to education, I became interested in what was taught in the American Colonies and early United States. At that time, we used measures and currency from many countries, and bartering was common in business. 

I was happy and lucky to find two experts in Colonial and Early American mathematics education: Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements, both math professors at Illinois State University. In addition to their regular teaching and advising, Nerida and Ken have studied and compared 500+ cyphering books from 1650-1861.

Cyphering books are self-written reference books; students would solve problems on slates, and after reaching the correct answer, students would record the full problem in their own cyphering book. 

I met with them first last October, and everybody's schedule finally aligned and I was able to film them last week. Here's some stills, below. 

And if you're interested in this topic with more photos, see the film blog

Sincerely,
Amy

Ken Clements and Nerida Ellerton with their books, based on their research on cyphering books.
Ken Clements and Nerida Ellerton with their books, based on their research on cyphering books.

 

"Practical Questions" is an apt heading. The first question is "Bought 25 lb of coffee for 5 dollars what is that a pound? Answer 20 cents
"Practical Questions" is an apt heading. The first question is "Bought 25 lb of coffee for 5 dollars what is that a pound? Answer 20 cents

This cyphering book is one written by a girl student—about 20% of the cyphering books studied these professors were written by girls. The cover is blue fabric, reinforced with newspaper.

Nerida and Ken show a few old containers. The two small are firkins. You may remember them in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, "'A firkin or so of good wine in each of these towns would not have been amiss,' said Tirian."
Nerida and Ken show a few old containers. The two small are firkins. You may remember them in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, "'A firkin or so of good wine in each of these towns would not have been amiss,' said Tirian."

 

Celebrating World Metrology Day 2016!

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There's little uncertainty that metrologists are enjoying their day! Here's a video I made to celebrate, Part 2 of "Build Your Own Watt Balance". After making Part 1, I received a question about how the experiment yields Planck constant, and another question about how IPK is connected to the forthcoming quantum standards. Hope this explains it! 

https://vimeo.com/167492608