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World Metrology Day – the buzz at Teddington 23.05.14

Proof Director, Joe Meaney, on spreading awareness of the importance of measurement to our daily lives

Tuesday 20 May was World Metrology Day, an annual day to celebrate the signing of the Metre Convention on 20 May 1875. This set the framework for global collaboration in the science of measurement and in its application across industry and society.

The original aim of the Metre Convention – the worldwide uniformity of measurement – remains as important today as it was 139 years ago.

To celebrate the day the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the home of measurement in the UK, opened its doors and invited the general public to come and see the work of a world class research facility in the 21st century.

We have worked with NPL for a decade but spending time at the Open Day always brings new research to light that we can then help to promote. With that in mind I joined the conga line of visitors walking from Teddington station to NPL on Tuesday lunchtime.

Over the course of the afternoon an estimated 3,500 people came to the laboratory to see the great work NPL is doing in research areas such as magnetics, biometric recognition, graphene and structural health monitoring.

The day’s popularity means that an increase in visitor numbers is not our primary focus. Instead Proof works to raise awareness of the importance of measurement to those who may not see the value such research has on their lives.

We engaged the hugely popular news and social media site Buzzfeed to focus on some of the more bizarre measurements that NPL has carried out over the past 115 years. Working with the NPL communications team and Outreach Manager Andrew Hanson we compiled a list of nine things you never knew could be measured, from the crunchiness of biscuits to the shininess of cats. With support through social media the post received almost 20,000 views in the first few days.

World Metrology Day was a great success for NPL, and highlights the real public interest in its research. For those wanting to see some of this in practice don’t miss the NPL Water Rocket Challenge in June, which sees hundreds of participants, from school teams to adults, battling it out to become champion rocket launcher.