Made to Measure: The quest to create universal measurements and the complexity of globalisation

4. April 2022 18:30

Donna Carroll

We’ve always been driven to measure the world around us. It’s been essential for society since the concept of trade arose. Maybe you want to know how much bread you can buy and how much your litre of beer will cost. In order to construct buildings you need accurate measures of length and angles. In order to travel you have to develop maps. But it goes beyond this, man’s pursuit to understand the world and the universe has driven us to try to measure the size of the Earth, the speed of light and the pull of gravity. How did our current measurements systems come about? And why do we still live in a world where measurements are not always standard (think of the British or American mile and pint compared to the kilometre and litre)? Furthermore, why didn’t all EU countries adopt the Euro and how does national identity play a role in these processes?
In this lecture, Donna will talk about the adventures scientists have undergone to develop the metric system. We’ll go on to discuss the discrepancies we still see across the world and how the historic decisions not to adopt the metric system universally has led to numerous catastrophic errors.

Donna is a former physics, electronics and mathematics lecturer and has worked at various colleges and universities in the UK and the Netherlands. She is now responsible for training and development of teaching staff at Maastricht University. Donna is pas-sionate about broadening public interest and understanding of science and mathematics and gives a wide range of public talks with this aim.

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