Unit of length


A unit of length refers to any arbitrarily chosen and accepted reference standard for measurement of length. The most common units in modern use are the metric units, used in every country globally. In the United States the U.S. customary units are also in use. British Imperial units are still used for some purposes in the United Kingdom and some other countries. The metric system is sub-divided into SI and non-SI units.[1][2][3]

A ruler, depicting two customary units of length, the centimeter and the inch

Metric system edit

SI edit

The base unit in the International System of Units (SI) is the meter, defined as "the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1299792458 seconds."[4] It is approximately equal to 1.0936 yd. Other SI units are derived from the meter by adding prefixes, as in millimeter or kilometer, thus producing systematic decimal multiples and submultiples of the base unit that span many orders of magnitude. For example, a kilometer is 1000 m.

Non-SI edit

In the centimeter–gram–second system of units, the basic unit of length is the centimeter, or 1100 of a meter. Other non-SI units are derived from decimal multiples of the meter.

Name Symbol SI value
fermi fm femtometer
ångström Å 100 picometers
micron μm 1 micrometer
Norwegian/Swedish mil or myriameter 10,000 meters
x unit xu 0.1 picometer

Imperial/U.S. edit

The basic unit of length in the imperial and U.S. customary systems is the yard, defined as exactly 0.9144 m by international treaty in 1959.[2][5]

Common imperial units and U.S. customary units of length include:[6]

  • thou or mil (11000 of an inch)
  • inch (25.4 mm)
  • foot (12 inches, 0.3048 m)
  • yard (3 feet, 0.9144 m)
  • (terrestrial) mile (5280 feet, 1609.344 m)
  • (land) league 3 miles (4,800 m)

Marine edit

In addition, the following are used by sailors:

  • fathom (for depth; only in non-metric countries) (2 yards = 1.8288 m)
  • nautical mile (one minute of arc of latitude = 1852 m)

Aviation edit

Aviators use feet for altitude worldwide (except in Russia and China) and nautical miles for distance.[citation needed]

Surveying edit

Determination of the rod, using the length of the left foot of 16 randomly chosen people coming from church service

Surveyors in the United States continue to use:

  • chain (22 yards, or 20.1168 m)
  • rod (also called pole or perch) (quarter of a chain, 512 yards, or 5.0292 m)

Building trades edit

The Australian building trades adopted the metric system in 1966 and the units used for measurement of length are meters (m) and millimeters (mm). Centimeters (cm) are avoided as they cause confusion when reading plans. For example, the length two and a half meters is usually recorded as 2500 mm or 2.5 m; it would be considered non-standard to record this length as 250 cm.[7][8]

Surveyor's trade edit

American surveyors use a decimal-based system of measurement devised by Edmund Gunter in 1620. The base unit is Gunter's chain of 66 feet (20 m) which is subdivided into 4 rods, each of 16.5 ft or 100 links of 0.66 feet. A link is abbreviated "lk", and links "lks", in old deeds and land surveys done for the government.

Science edit

Astronomy edit

Astronomical measure uses:

Physics edit

In atomic physics, sub-atomic physics, and cosmology, the preferred unit of length is often related to a chosen fundamental physical constant, or combination thereof. This is often a characteristic radius or wavelength of a particle. Some common natural units of length are included in this table:

Atomic property Symbol Length, in meters Reference
The classical electron radius re 2.817940285(31)×10−15 [13]
The Compton wavelength of the electron λC 2.426310215(18)×10−12 [13]
The reduced Compton wavelength of the electron λC 3.8615926764(18)×10−13 [14]
The Compton wavelength (or reduced Compton wavelength) of any fundamental particle λx
The Bohr radius of the hydrogen atom (Atomic unit of length) a0 5.291772083(19)×10−11 [13]
The reduced wavelength of hydrogen radiation 1 / R 9.112670505509(83)×10−8 [13]
The Planck length 𝓁P 1.616199(97)×10−35 [15]
Stoney unit of length lS 1.381×10−35
Quantum chromodynamics (QCD) unit of length lQCD 2.103×10−16
Natural units based on the electronvolt 1 eV−1 1.97×10−7

Archaic edit

Archaic units of distance include:

Informal edit

In everyday conversation, and in informal literature, it is common to see lengths measured in units of objects of which everyone knows the approximate width. Common examples are:

Other edit

Horse racing and other equestrian activities keep alive:

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Cardarelli, François (2003). Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights, and Measures: Their SI Equivalences and Origins. Springer. ISBN 9781852336820.
  2. ^ a b Hinkelman, Edward G.; Sibylla Putzi (2005). Dictionary Of International Trade: Handbook Of The Global Trade Community. World Trade Press. p. 245. ISBN 9781885073723.
  3. ^ Judson, Lewis Van Hagen (1960). Units of Weight and Measure (United States Customary and Metric): Definitions and Tables of Equivalents, Issue,233. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  4. ^ "17th General Conference on Weights and Measures (1983), Resolution 1". Retrieved 2012-09-19.
  5. ^ Donald Fenna (2002). A dictionary of weights, measures, and units. Oxford University Press. pp. 130–131. ISBN 978-0198605225. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  6. ^ Cardarelli 2003, pp. 29–30
  7. ^ Wilks, Kevin Joseph. (1992). Metrication in Australia : a review of the effectiveness of policies and procedures in Australia's conversion to the metric system. Australia. Department of Industry, Technology, and Commerce. Canberra: Australian Govt. Pub. Service. p. 94. ISBN 0-644-24860-2. OCLC 27702954.
  8. ^ "Metrication in Australia" (PDF).
  9. ^ Moritz, H. (March 2000). "Geodetic Reference System 1980". Journal of Geodesy. 74 (1): 128–133. Bibcode:2000JGeod..74..128.. doi:10.1007/s001900050278. S2CID 195290884.
  10. ^ Battat, J. B. R.; Murphy, T. W.; Adelberger, E. G. (January 2009). "The Apache Point Observatory Lunar Laser-ranging Operation (APOLLO): Two Years of Millimeter-Precision Measurements of the Earth-Moon Range". Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 121 (875): 29–40. Bibcode:2009PASP..121...29B. doi:10.1086/596748. JSTOR 10.1086/596748.
  11. ^ Geoff Brumfiel (14 Sep 2012). "The astronomical unit gets fixed: Earth–Sun distance changes from slippery equation to single number". Retrieved 14 Sep 2012.
  12. ^ The IAU and astronomical units, International Astronomical Union, retrieved 2008-07-05
  13. ^ a b c d Quinn, T.J.; Leschiutta, S.; Tavella, P. (August 2000). Recent advances in metrology and fundamental constants. Amsterdam; Washington, DC: IOS Press, 2001. Proceedings of the International School of Physics "Enrico Fermi". pp. 142–143. ISBN 9781586031671.
  14. ^ "Compton wavelength over 2 pi". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Planck length". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. Retrieved 15 October 2012.

Further reading edit

  • Whitelaw, Ian (2007). A Measure of All Things: The Story of Man and Measurement. Macmillan. ISBN 9780312370268.