World in the Balance by Robert P. Crease
The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement

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Synopsis

The epic story of the invention of a global network of weights, scales, and instruments for measurement.


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.
 

About Robert P. Crease

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Robert P. Crease writes the "Critical Point" column for Physics World. He is the chairman of the Philosophy Department at Stony Brook University and lives in New York City. He is the author of, among other books, The Prism and the Pendulum, The Great Equations and World in the Balance.
 
Published October 24, 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. 320 pages
Genres: Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Advocates of the new system immediately began to proselytize for it, sending copies of the standard to other nations including the United States, where the “scientific” measure had a strong advocate in Thomas Jefferson.

Oct 24 2011 | Read Full Review of World in the Balance: The His...

Publishers Weekly

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for example, nearly every civilization has the equivalent of a "foot.” In China, systems of measurement date back to the third millennium B.C.E., ., eventually becoming, as one scholar wrote, "a metaphor for the moral and spiritual order of the universe….” The first effort to create worldwi...

Jul 25 2011 | Read Full Review of World in the Balance: The His...

The Wall Street Journal

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(The U.S. kept its length and weight measures but defined them in terms of the new standard measures.) Soon, however, improved techniques for measuring nature changed the equation.

Oct 28 2011 | Read Full Review of World in the Balance: The His...

London Review of Books

If you are using the site for the first time please register here If you would like access to all 12,000 articles subscribe here Institutions or university library users please login here Learn more about our institutional subscriptions here The print edition of the London Review of Books i...

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Science News

The United States might already have adopted the metric system, suggests Crease, were it not for the kidnapping and death of an 18th century European emissary carrying an early set of metric standards.

Nov 04 2011 | Read Full Review of World in the Balance: The His...

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