Browsing: Metrology

Whether they’re made of leather or metal, people have been using tape measures for a long time. The first spring-loaded metal tape measure was invented and patented in England in 1829. Alvin Fellows of New Haven, Conn., made improvements to that design, including the locking mechanism that stops the tape from retracting until you want it to, and received a patent on July 14, 1868, a date that is now celebrated by tape measure enthusiasts like myself as National Tape Measure Day. Tape measures are indispensable tools. We use them to build houses, to tailor clothes and to ensure fairness in trade and sports, pretty much any situation where we need to know the length of something. Many years ago…

Right now, scientists all over the world are trying to understand how we get injured when our bodies are subjected to strong, dynamic loads – a hard body-check on the hockey rink, a tackle on the football field, a car crash, or even a bomb blast. Fortunately, I haven’t had any experience with bomb blasts, and I like to think I’m a great driver (don’t we all!), so I haven’t been in any car crashes (so far!), but what I do know something about is hockey. I grew up in Buffalo, New York. We Buffalonians love hockey, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve been playing hockey ever since I could skate under the crossbar. Like any good…

If I told you my job required a hair net, a “bunny suit,” and a million-dollar piece of equipment, would you have any idea what I do? Do I sound like a mad scientist or a crazy lunch lady? If you haven’t caught on yet, I’ll give you a hint: Don’t trust the mystery meat. Just kidding! I am actually an undergraduate student working in nanofabrication at NIST in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. I create and study devices on the nanoscale, which is 10^-9 meters, or for all you non-science types out there, we’re talking billionths of a meter. Though I’m now studying in a very specialized field, when I started college, I wasn’t sure what path…

I’m a dragon wrangler. While that might sound like something straight out of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, this isn’t fantasy, this is serious science. As a dragon wrangler, or more colloquially, a fire researcher, my job is to help protect people and property from fire’s devastating effects. My area of expertise is wildfires, and in particular wildfires that threaten whole communities, which we call Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) fires. In the U.S. alone there are more than 80,000 wildfires every year. About 2 to 3 percent of those fires threaten populated areas, putting 46 million structures and over 120 million people at risk. And every year, we lose about 3,000 homes to these kinds of fires. The “Beast” wildfire…

It was Monday, April 25, 2016, and I was going to meet mass experts Pat Abbott and Eddie Mulhern of NIST’s Mass and Force group as part of my frantic preparations for a 5:21 p.m. flight to Paris. Pat and Eddie were the appointed custodians of the four 1 kilogram masses that I was to transport to the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) (that’s French for “International Bureau of Weights and Measures”) as part of the world’s first comparison among masses calibrated entirely in terms of fundamental constants of the universe. That’s right. These kilograms were calibrated in terms of fundamental constants of the universe and not in terms of some piece of metal enshrined in a vault…