Sunday, April 23, 2023

Beyond Measure: The Hidden History of Measurement from Cubits to Quantum Constants (James Vincent)

Measuring out ingredients for cooking or distances to travel is something we generally take for granted. Most of the world uses metric measurements, with England using a hybrid of Imperial (miles, pounds, and inches) and metric, and the United States and a few others holding onto the Imperial system of measurement. How did these measurements come about and how did the world drift mostly towards one system while a couple of countries held fast to tradition? James Vincent answers those questions in Beyond Measure: The Hidden History of Measurement from Cubits to Quantum Constants.

Vincent charts the origins and evolution of how humans measure everything, including day length and years. The evolution of the calendar to the current system, an attempt by the French to change the calendar completely on its ear, and why we have 24 hours and 60 minutes is discussed in detail. Ever wondered how the kilogram is calculated or how a meter is measured? This book will answer those questions and more.

Beyond Measure occasionally wades into the torrent of politics, sometimes a bit too far from a balanced perspective where the author’s opinions take over the reader’s journey. However, his enthusiasm for explaining how measurements have been defined and evolved over time and some of the quirkier battles over how we measure, is very enjoyable. Beyond Measure ultimately measures up to provide a good understanding of how we quantify the world around us.