back to article Reference kilo shows mysterious weight loss

French scientists have been offered a welcome distraction from their country’s dismal rugby performance with the news that the much-loved “reference” kilo is mysteriously losing weight. AP reports that the 118 year old “reference” kilo, which like many an inbred French aristo is kept locked up in a Chateau southwest of Paris, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    unit of mass

    Surely your unit of mass should be 'Paris Hiltons'!

  2. Chris Miller

    Time to diet

    Oh no! Does this mean we've all become 0.000005% heavier?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How heavy?

    Surely when it comes to weight (don't get me started on units of mass) things should be measured Elephants? Or, if we are going to get parochial about it, old style minis? At least that is what we used to work out how heavy stuff was when Geoff Capes was a world champion and brawny men would struggle about on Skegness sea front!

  4. Dazed and Confused

    Reg's unit of mass

    Surely the Register's unit of mass should be used to tie weights and measures to that other well know Register standard. I refer of course to the standard table of bribes and other inducements.

    So I would have expected the unit of mass to be based on the mass of beer required to get a favourable story printed.

  5. Mark Roome

    Standard unit of ...

    Shouldn't that be the standard unit of Moss, as in the weight of Kate Moss. Isn't she supposed to be the definition of skinny?

    Just my 2 cents worth

  6. Richard Stubbs

    Gravitational pull

    Ok so its mass hasn’t changed? It wouldn’t “weigh” the same on the moon?

    So surely it’s the effect of the Earth slowing down over 118 years producing less gravitational pull, I remember that from school science lessons (in between burning everything I could get my hands on in a bunsen burner). Obviously French scientists were bunking off that lesson. Now at this point I remember I’m supposed to write a hypothesis, results and conclusion …. now I remember why I was burning everything!

  7. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    France is about to fall in Hell and release Gas

    Could there be a big gas bubble forming under France in the Earth mantle, reducing the local mass density and therefore the gravitational field?

    As the bubble reaches the surface, France will disappear in a huge volcanic eruption which will forever put paid to the Common Agricultural Policy.

    The bad news is that the hot volcanic gas may become diverted by the Channel Tunnel and vent over the south of England.

    But then the good news is that it will surely cool down the London house market and will effectively finish of the foot and mouth outbreak...

  8. Christopher

    Just rugby they're doing badly at?

    Scotland would suggest otherwise! :)

  9. Paul

    Units of mass (My ideas)

    There are 10 Old Mini's (OM) in 1 Elephant (AE)

    1200 Pints in 1 OM.

    For bigger mesurments there is ofcours the 747, and for smaller the and and the grain of sault, but I cant be botherd to do the maths.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Oh no! Does this mean we've all become 0.000005% heavier?"

    Even more than that...

    .0000050000250001250006250031250156251% in fact.

    It's obscene.

  11. Richard Mason

    Standard weight

    Surely the standard units of weight in ascending order are feathers, bags of sugar, elephants, articulated lorries and jumbo jets.

  12. martin


    Give it a dusting?

  13. Steven Jones

    It's a unit of mass, not weight

    I suppose this is a lightweight article, but the Kilogramme is a unit of mass, not weight. Mass is essentially a measure of the amount of matter in an iobject, whilst weight is the force due to the operation of gravity on an object (or rather objects - in our case overwhelmingly dominated by the mass of the Earth, although the Sun and Moon have readily measurable effects - witness the tides). The mass of an object remains essentially unchanged.

    However, you can readily change the weight of a given object by moving it to different places on the Earth's surface (or away from the Earth's surface).

    Using Kilogramme as a unit of weight ought to be left to greengrocers and the like, and has no place in referring to standard measures.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft anyone?

    How about:

    The Ballmer - a unit of hot air equivalent to the capacity of a hot air balloon, but with a chair and dancing monkeys thrown in for good measure. A unit of Ballmer is called a patent, and there are 235 patents to an infringment. When you have several infringements you have a Linux and several Linux's become a cancer.

    Of course, if you are a Microsoftie then you do not recognise the Linux and insist it is a cancer, with the next step being a 'BSL', or Balance Sheet Liability.

    Even though The Ballmer is being pushed as an international standard to implement it you will need to sign a NDA and obtain a patent agreement with Microsoft.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How can they tell?

    If the thing you're trying to measure is what defines your unit, how can you say it's changed? When is a reference kilo not a reference kilo? When it's 999.9999950 grams? In which case it's hardly a 'reference' is it...?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I reckon Paris Hilton...

    ... would be more appropriate for the unit of density.

    Or possibly friction, since nothing seems to stick to her.

  17. Steve Martins


    Surely weight is a measure of how heavy something is, so logic would dictate that a kate moss is to mass as anti-matter is to matter...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "So surely it’s the effect of the Earth slowing down over 118 years producing less gravitational pull"

    Well that would affect the copies as well, so it clearly isn't that. And the earth slowing down has nothing to do with gravity, gravity is based on the mass of the earth, not its speed. Even if it was the case, it would mean it would get heavier, not lighter.

    Obviously YOU were bunking off... all those lessons!

    "If the thing you're trying to measure is what defines your unit, how can you say it's changed? When is a reference kilo not a reference kilo? When it's 999.9999950 grams? In which case it's hardly a 'reference' is it...?"

    There are copies of it as well, I assume they take the average of all of them or something. Redundant backups (there's your IT angle!)

  19. Parax

    not a problem..

    They'll just have to redefine it like they did with the Metre.

  20. CareTaker

    I seem to remember a BBC news story relating to this.

    There used to be one man, who's name escapes me, who used to clean the reference metric objects. If memory serves, he was the only person who could clean the objects without removing any of the metal. I believe he died and the controversy was to do with getting someone else to clean the objects without damaging them.

    Could this simply be a case of some ham fisted, garlic breathed, cheese and wine obsessed, dead language speaking, frog rubbing too hard?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do we have a reference 'pound' knocking about?

    If so why don't we lend it to them then all our imperial to metric conversion issues disappear.

  22. Paul R

    Global Warming

    I wonder how long before someone attributes this erosion of mass to some effect of global warming, and decides to lobby a politician to support an increase in tax so that we can off-set the effect.

  23. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...and this affects us how?

    Didn't we just win a huge battle over all things metric?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1kg = units of mass destruction?

    The Bulgarian Airbag cannot be a measure of mass since these airbags (with or without bee attacks?) are definitely a measure of weight - they are heavily exposed to gravity.

    Slightly off topic: I know there are some measures for land around but what about a quare measure for, let's say, a dessert? Would be called the Steve Fossett Ground Search or SFGS or, in colloquial language, just a Fossett. I'd suppose, 1 Steve Fossett Groud Search would be about the size of the Mojave Desert.


  26. IanKRolfe

    @How can they tell?

    "If the thing you're trying to measure is what defines your unit, how can you say it's changed? When is a reference kilo not a reference kilo? When it's 999.9999950 grams? In which case it's hardly a 'reference' is it...?"

    In the article, should you choose to peruse it, they say that it has lost mass in relation to the other reference masses that exist. So it's not a local phenomena (i.e. change in gravitational density) either.

    Sounds to me like someone's been too enthusiastic with the Brasso.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The metric system is far superior to imperial, I don't see many scientists dumping this for back of a fag packet pints and pounds.

    Paul R - Great idea, the application is in the mail. But I reckon it will not cost you a penny more, </cough> tax dodger ! <cough/>

  28. Steve Evans

    "I don't see many scientists dumping this for back of a fag packet pints and pounds."

    Actually, you're quite wrong there.

    IIRC, a certain mars probe went smashing into the surface specifically *because* scientists mixed up metric and imperial measurements!

    Then again, only American scientists would even attempt that kind of madness!

  29. Dom

    The Doink.

    The doink is a genuine measure so I suppose that rules it out... however: a (good) few years ago my parents lived in Nigeria, and wanted to buy some manure for the garden. The gardener said "no problem" but when asked "how much?" said it was so many Naira per "doink".

    The "doink" is the amount of crap one donkey produces in one day.

  30. Carl

    In memory of a great man...

    let me humbly offer the "Pavarotti."

  31. Peter Johnstone

    How many bh's are there to a brontosaurus?

    I would like to propose the bh (Baw Hair) as a universal unit of measurement lengh. Here are some examples

    It's a bh too long.

    I need to cut a bh off of this!

    So that would make the measure of area a bh^2 and the measure of volume a bh^3 or as I like to call it a pubic cube. (A bit like a rubic cube but with all the sides covered in short curly hair).

    Question is how many bh's are their to a brontosaurus?

  32. Mike Tubby

    Surely this is sheep related?

    If we have the velocity of a sheep in a vacuum, then lets standardise on the mass of a sheep?!?

    The average sheep weighs around 100-160lbs - for arguement lets call it 150lbs, or 68Kg, so to get to a unit of the same magnitude as that French thingy (the Kilogram) we need to divide by 100, so we need the centi-Sheep (cS) or, if you prefer to do things by multiples of a thousand and represent a Kilogram then that is 14.7 milli-Sheep (mS).

    Now... what was the velocity of a sheep in a vacuum...? or better, what is the weight of a Mini in milli-Sheep?


  33. Voice of Reason

    Maybe...'s the other reference kilos that are getting heavier?

    If this is the ORIGINAL reference kilo then surely, by definition, it IS the kilo and the others must be wrong.

  34. Michael

    @ Richard Stubbs

    "So surely it’s the effect of the Earth slowing down over 118 years producing less gravitational pull"

    1) The gross gravitational pull between two objects is a function of the mass of the two objects and the square of the distance between them. Rotation doesn't enter into it.

    2) Rotation matters in net gravitational pull, in that if the distance between the two objects is zero (i.e. you're on the planet), then the centrifugal force mitigates the gravitational force somewhat. The greater the speed of rotation, the more extreme the centrifugal force, and hence, the greater extent to which gravity is mitigated.

    So if the earth is slowing down, and it has any measurable effect, the reference weight would become HEAVIER, not lighter.

  35. Jon Tocker

    re Vladimir

    "France is about to fall in Hell and release Gas"

    I bloody-well hope so!

    Not content with sending cowardly sneaks into our country to blow up a Hippy Ship (and a sleeping hippy) safely berthed in our harbour and then "copyrighting" the name "Kiwi" for one of their poofy wines, they're now stealing the "moku" (Maori facial tattoos) to advertise their poofy designer clothes - the time is long overdue for the whole nation of effete, thieving, gutless-coward frogs to fall into a lake of molten magma and perish...

    Before they steal something else of ours to advertise or name some disgusting-tasting, over-priced, under-sized "Cordon-Bleu" dish involving something generally considered to be inedible and a couple of artistically-arranged strips of something green (or red) that may possibly have once come from a vegetable.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    These sphere-huggers are just too lazy to count the atoms in the reference kilo. Get to work, guys!

  37. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    @sheep related

    Funny that, while just having celebrated the demise of the Metric rule, you immediately adopt the same standards in a new measurement system. Surely, as a red-blooded Englishman, you would prefer to avoid the centisheep and rather have one sheep equal six rumps, a rump equals three heads and a head equals seven hooves ?

    Proof that the method is better : Kate Moss weighs no more than a rump and two hooves. Now ain't that scientific ?

    And as for the culinary complaints, suffice it to say that coming from an Englishman, it ain't worth a doink.


  38. Simon Greenwood

    re: Do we have a reference 'pound' knocking about?

    Yes we do, but since 1959 it's been defined as a fraction of a kilogram - 0.453.6 kg to be approximate.

  39. Andrew Prentis

    @Richard Stubbs

    Gravity is not dependent up on the rotational speed of the earth. It is an intrinsic property of the volume of the earth.

    Now, changes in rock density beneath a location will affect the microGravity in that region. I used to be a Geophysicist and we would use Gavitometers to measure the local gravitational field in a region and use that to model the underlying rock densities. While doing these measurements, you need to calculate the gravitational effect of the sun and the moon at the same time/location to use as a corrective factor.

  40. Jos

    @all you claiming this is a victory over the metric system...

    I'm not sure I still follow what a pound is anymore...



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