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Redefining Physical Constants

Getting ourselves out of the 1700s
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Have you ever noticed that our basic units of measurements have pretty much been determined by experiments done before the 20th century? For example, the meter and the kilogram were all pretty much determined a long time ago and today's measurements don't define them, they delineate them. They base these units now off of things like the speed of light, but even then it's a weird number. By weird I mean not a whole number. Sometimes it's close, like for a meter is the distance that light travels in 1/299,792,458 of a second. Why couldn't we define the meter as the distance light travels in 1/300,000,000 of a second or 1/250,000,000 of a second?

If you think about it, a lot of the other weird numbers in our definitions come from those numbers. The ampere is defined in terms of mass and distance and thus the coulomb is too. The charge on an electron is defined as 1/1.602e19 C, so even the fundamental unit of charge is defined based on our funny definitions of mass and space. All physical phenomena are measured pretty much based on other measurements that depend on mass, space and time. Thermodynamics, optics, gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear physics, relativistic mechanics, particle physics, etc. all are dependent on these critical definitions of mass, space and time.

I bet if we all decided to redefine our constants to more "universal" values, we'd see a lot more mathematical harmony. I use the term "universal" in this way: the scale of Fahrenheit was based on 0 being one really cold day and 100 being the rectal temperature of a bovine--the Celsius scale uses a more "universal" value, the freezing and boiling point of water.

Who knows? Maybe it would kinda clear our minds and help us think of things in a whole new way, kinda see the fundamental relationships in physics a lot better. If not, then it would seriously help out physics students that have to remember things like there are 1.602e19 electrons in a coulomb.

WhereYouAt, Jul 23 2008


       //the meter and the kilogram were all pretty much determined a long time ago //
And what's more back then, they spelled them correctly.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jul 23 2008

       Meh, Max Plank did this rather well, with the Plank units of time (put) and space (pus). Using these units, the speed of light is exactly 1pus/put.   

       It doesn't get much more fundamental than that, the downside being that normal speeds have to be expressed in terms of fractions approaching 1.   

       For example the tedious measurement of 60mph might be redefined in Plank terms as 5.97436 x 10^39pus/6.6678 x 10^46put.   

       Which is nice and fundamental, but takes up an awful lot of space on the dashboard.
zen_tom, Jul 23 2008

       I presume that you mean *universal* for ease of reference from your particular frame of reference. Else everything else is pretty much catered for.
4whom, Jul 23 2008

       This would just create another system of units that folks would immediately start to bastardise.
ldischler, Jul 23 2008

       this makes me think of the way little endian n big endian data like 10100111 describe different numbers with regard to direction of reading (10 is either 1 or 2) there are toplogies where the little or big endianness of representation are deterministic, partially deterministic, or multivalued   

       you could reform all your "constants" such that their possibility of being had the right degree of flexibility   

       this is one of the critiques of things like using any kind of FEA like fractals to describe the basis of universe
beanangel, Jul 23 2008

       pus frames 'a burst of light' in a new way . I am all for new physics definitions that don't confuse the common held definitions of the word like 'space' and 'spin' . Time isn't a put but rather a wait .
wjt, Jul 23 2008

       I agree with the need to redefine our scales for physical units to a rational structure to assist memory and calculations. I would start with the redefining PI as exactly 3.0.   

       I know there will be those who object, particularly those who enjoy their status as highly paid engineers, scientists and mathematicians who would be let go if measurements and calculations were simplified so now complicated calculations could be simplified sufficiently to be performed by average folks having 5th grade level mathematic skills.   

       But, as the buggy-whip manufactures had to learn new skills with the advent of automobiles, engineers, scientists and mathematicians and others presently dependent upon retaining complication in our calculations and measurement structure will have to move onto the 21st century, perhaps getting assembly jobs in factories competing with Chinese goods.   

       el dueno
el dueno, Jul 26 2008

       WhereYouAt Iim quite new to the HB. This is the first time I’ve seen one of your post’s. I think your idea has some merit. [+]
j paul, Jun 09 2011

       I've been working on a method for changing the value of Pi for some time now. It involves staring very intently at a point on the visible horizon, closing one eye, cocking my head to the side, and opening my eye again. Up until now, I hadn't been planning to post it on HB because:   

       A) it doesn't work   



       Beleive me, I've tried.
Alterother, Jun 10 2011

       //I would start with the redefining of PI as exactly 3.0//   

       B.S. Johnson already accomplished this, in theory. The results were rather gruesome, as those who have read the accounts of his works will surely agree.
Alterother, Jun 10 2011


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