The League of SI Superheroes

I have occasionally blogged about the International System of Units – the SI. I love the way this system helps people to measure stuff in all kinds of ways. I think it is one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

As a worker at the UK’s National Measurement Institute, NPL, I feel proud of what we do to solve measurement problems and encourage measurement best practice.

Despite occasional political misdirection, I think the UK is making good progress towards using measurement units rationally.

But my colleagues at the US National Institute for Standards and Techhnology, NIST, do not have it so easy.

They live in a country where the premier science magazine Scientific American, is more american than scientific when it comes to units.

However my NIST colleagues have expressed their love of the SI in a different way: through cartoon characterisations of the measurement units as superheroes.

The League of SI Superheroes’ work is never done. They toil tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the measurements that interweave our lives are as accurate and precise as possible. 

It is very american approach, but I like it nonetheless.

In this particular story, the narrative is [PAUSE: delete previous text: insert modified text] contrived to put it mildly. But the characterisations are very strong.

The League of SI Superheroes are:

  • Meter Man: With his laser interferometer eyes, graduated arms and extendable body, no dimension is too big or too small for Meter Man to measure.
  • The Mole: Able to sniff out and count the atoms of every element, the Mole is a master of chemistry.
  • Professor Second: By reading the vibrations of her laser-cooled cesium atoms, Professor Second can synchronize any frequency and calibrate any clock.
  • Monsieur Kilogram: Monsieur Kilogram loves lifting weights, and it shows. With his balance scale arms, no mass is too big or too small for him measure.
  • Ms. Ampere: Ms. Ampere rules the flow of electrons—electrical current—and makes sure that the right amount gets where it needs to go.
  • Dr. Kelvin: Dr. Kelvin heats up or cools down objects by speeding up or slowing down the particles inside them. He can also measure the temperature of anything in the universe with his trusty thermometer.
  • Candela: Don’t let her small size fool you. Candela’s power over light helps to brighten the whole world.

Personally I would like to see The League to do battle against the endlessly variable Inchworm, and the evil Pound of Sprouts

But in fact a battle would be pointless because it has already been won. Since the 1960’s the inch and the pound have been defined as a given number of millimetres and kilograms respectively.


By the way, 1337.15 K is equal to 1064 ºC which is close to the melting temperature of gold – so that would be quite some phone!

One Response to “The League of SI Superheroes”

  1. H Stiles (@HStiles1) Says:

    I agree that for schools it is crazy to teach imperial for everyday use – though I would be loath to lose the mile & pint, we have to realize the importance of metric for science. ..
    Remember the Mars orbiter?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: