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  • World Metrology Day Inches Closer
May 2010
GAITHERSBURG, Md., May 6, 2010 — "Accurate measurement is at the heart of physics, and in my experience, new physics begins at the next decimal place," said Steven Chu, now the US Secretary of Energy, at the 125th anniversary of the Metre Convention in 2000. Those sentiments are echoed daily at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). On May 20, NIST will hold its fourth annual celebration of World Metrology Day, commemorating the signing of the Metre Convention, the treaty that created international organizations to maintain metric standards. A NIST symposium in Gaithersburg will feature talks that focus upon this year’s worldwide theme, “Measurements in Science and Technology … a Bridge to Innovation.”

NIST force measurements are critical for accurately determining the power of internal combustion engines, the thrust of jet engines, and the strength of materials and structures. (NIST Photo by Barry Gardner)

The Metre Convention was signed on May 20, 1875, a date now celebrated as World Metrology Day (WMD). The convention created the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) and set the framework for not only the worldwide uniformity of measurement, but global collaboration in the science of measurement and in its industrial, commercial and societal application. This year, in his message to the world of metrology, governments, companies, academics — and the man in the street — BIPM director A.J. Wallard highlights the role played by precise measurement. He challenges measurement scientists to be more active in promoting the topic among decision makers, as well as with young people, pointing out the value of accurate and reliable measurement to their daily tasks and to the world as it deals with today’s grand challenges.

Previous WMD themes have included topics such as measurements in sport, the environment, medicine, and trade. The 2010 theme, "Measurements in Science and Technology...a Bridge to Innovation," concentrates on how measurement influences science, stimulates innovation, and powers the engines of future economic growth and prosperity.

NIST engineer Dr. David Wollman will talk about metrology and innovation in the Smart Grid, a nationwide network that uses information technology to deliver electricity efficiently, reliably, and securely. NIST scientist Dr. Cameron Miller will explain how better metrology will support innovation in the lighting industry, with its emerging technologies such as energy-efficient, environmentally friendly white-light LEDs. Illustrating how measurements help scientists and engineers better understand the tiny devices that scientists and engineers now routinely create, NIST's Dr. Curt Richter will explain how metrology will support advances in nanoelectronics, the creation of electronic devices with dimensions of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Katharine Gebbie, director of NIST's Physics Laboratory, will kick off the event.

Poster sessions from the NIST laboratories will be held after the speaker session.

For more information on the NIST event, visit: For more information on the worldwide celebration, visit:

The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
white light
Light perceived as achromatic, that is, without hue.
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