World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement

World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement

Hardback

By (author) Robert P. Crease

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  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Format: Hardback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 236mm x 30mm | 590g
  • Publication date: 28 October 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0393072983
  • ISBN 13: 9780393072983
  • Illustrations note: 35 black-and-white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 294,105

Product description

Millions of transactions each day depend on a reliable network of weights and measures. This network has been called a greater invention than the steam engine, comparable only to the development of the printing press. Robert P. Crease traces the evolution of this international system from the use of flutes to measure distance in the dynasties of ancient China and figurines to weigh gold in West Africa to the creation of the French metric and British imperial systems. The former prevailed, with the United States one of three holdout nations. Into this captivating history Crease weaves stories of colorful individuals, including Thomas Jefferson, an advocate of the metric system, and American philosopher Charles S. Peirce, the first to tie the meter to the wavelength of light. Tracing the dynamic struggle for ultimate precision, World in the Balance demonstrates that measurement is both stranger and more integral to our lives than we ever suspected.

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Author information

Robert P. Crease writes the "Critical Point" column in Physics World and is a professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University. His books include The Great Equations and World in the Balance.