"In a vault inside the elegant Louis XIV Pavillon de Breteuil, outside Paris, a small metal cylinder rests on a shelf beneath a double set of bell jars. It has lain there for more than a century, its repose only occasionally disturbed when the vault's three key holders perform a co-ordinated opening ceremony to let technicians enter and clean the ingot... Such reverence for a lump of metal is unusual but has a purpose. The pavilion houses the International Bureau of Weights and Measures and that piece of the platinum-iridium alloy is its holiest relic. It is the defining mass against which all other kilograms are measured. This is the international prototype of the kilogram. The IPK, in short."
- Robert McKie, 'The future of the kilo: a weighty matter', The Guardian, 3 Nov 2018.
On 20th May 2019, this physical kilogram near Paris was retired. Its weight had changed over time, and the scientific community had already started to move away from physical references for measurement. The metre, the second and other units of measurement were already being defined by natural constants - for example, the speed of light - as these constants do not vary over time. It has been decided that the new kilogram will be defined in terms of Planck's Constant. There will be no more reference ingot in a vault near Paris, no more ceremonial cleaning, no more collective ritual reverence for a lump of metal.
We are delighted to invite Amol Dighe - scientist, educator, and nautanki - to look deeper into what these changes mean for us. On an everyday basis, we are probably still going to go the sabziwalla and get our vegetables measured for us against the physical kilogram weight. But with this shift, the laws of nature - the realm of quantum physics - has now become relevant to us in our everyday measurements. This is a change in philosophy, a new way of thinking. How does a change in science thinking affect the way we approach living in the world? How does this affect our philosophy of the world?
Join us on Friday for a fascinating evening that joins the dots between science, philosophy, and society. We will have some fun pondering on the past and projecting into the future, as science shifts our basis from the material, physical object to the abstract intangible constant.
Curated by Arnab Bhattacharya
RSVP for this session begins on Monday, 16th September.