The Kilogram Goes 2.0

in Science & Tech by

In a secure location outside Paris
beneath a bell jar’s airless dome sits
the current definition, bequest
of a 19th century certain of its path
to progress, that scientific constants
can be enthroned in place of fickle
kings. Trouble is, this potentate’s
lost weight, an eyelash-worth – more
than too much when you’re the thing
against which all else is measured.
What to do with royalty gone bad?
They’re meeting in Versailles
this week to decide just that: how
to replace a hunk of metal with
some standard that won’t slip. And not
a minute too soon (they’ve already fixed
the minute) judging by other news:
California homes reduced to ghostly
ash recovery teams must sift to find
their owners, while a cot in Yemen
barely strains to lift a bone-and-socket
boy, 10 kilos at age 10. The women
and men at the General Conference
of Weights and Measures surely sense
the hope placed on their shoulders,
our need for some still point
to stabilize this spinning plate we teeter
on. They’ve chosen Planck’s Constant,
as if it won’t degrade into the next
faked image sped up by a White House
stooge. So our fate hangs in the Kibble
balance – a complex contraption even
Russian trolls can’t fool. Maybe the New
Kilogram will save us after all. Maybe
it would have been Stan Lee’s last hero,
the broad back we could stack a cosmos
on, the way this unseasonable snow
outside my Pennsylvania window does,
flake by flake by flake by flake.



Say au revoir to that hunk of metal in France that has defined the kilogram [NPR]

Ed Granger lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared in Little Patuxent Review, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, Naugatuck River Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Delmarva Review, and other journals.

Image: NIST’s Eddie Mulhern holding K92, one of the agency’s kilogram samples. Credit: J.L. Lee/NIST