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Taking Measure

Just a Standard Blog

More Power to You, Wonder Woman!

MS. Ampere at the movies
Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

First, let me say that I’m totally energized by the good press my dear acquaintance Wonder Woman has been receiving lately. It’s absolutely electrifying to see a strong woman get good publicity! And she has done some wonderful things, what with defending the world from evil-doers and all.

Maybe with her around, superheroes like me will get a little more recognition. For those of you who haven’t heard of me, I’m Ms. Ampere of the Measurement League. My fellow superheroes and I make sure that the basic measurements that make modern life possible—time, temperature, length, amount of substance, mass, brightness, and electric current—are as accurate and precise as they can be. Without us, you’d have a tough time describing the natural world, creating and using new technologies, and even buying and selling food and fuel.

Now, I’ll grant you that Wonder Woman is peerless at hand-to-hand combat. She’s forthright, compassionate, just—an inspiration to us all. But really, how often do we actually need to be saved from supernatural existential threats?

Hardly ever!

Maybe the problems the heroes of the Measurement League solve are a little pedestrian, but they’re way more practical and more widespread. The ability to measure and control electricity—my specialty—is what helps you turn on the lights so you can find your way to the restroom in the middle of the night without shattering your kneecap on the corner of the coffee table.

And so much more!

No matter how big or small the job, from managing the load on the power grid to toasting your bread, I’m there. Every time you charge your phone, start your car or perform open heart surgery, I’m there. I don’t just save lives (and kneecaps!) every day, I make lives better.  

So, where’s my hit movie?

The more I think about it, the more … amped I get. I guess the rest of the Measurement League and I do our jobs so well that people take us for granted.

Mole says that I should just focus on the mission and be content with doing my job in the shadows. That’s easy for him to say; he spends most of his time underground. He likes it in the shadows.

But me? I’ve got to sparkle!

Three men hover around a piece of equipment
From left: Michael Stewart, Bahman Sarabi, and Neil Zimmerman are among the heroes working to redefine the ampere.
Credit: NIST

Admittedly, the official scientific definition of the ampere—the SI unit I maintain and defend with my life—is kind of difficult to understand. It’s got to be pretty tough for a mere mortal to maintain a constant current in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length and negligible circular cross-section placed 1 meter apart in vacuum to produce a force equal to 2 x 10^–7 newton per meter of length.

(Definitely not for me, Ms. Ampere, though!)

But things are going to change now that the most sophisticated quantum mechanical tools have been brought to bear. Next year, scientists from all over the world will redefine the units I and a few of my measurement superhero colleagues defend. Maybe then I’ll—I mean, we’ll—finally get the appreciation I—er, we—deserve!

In the meantime, while we’re waiting on that—and my movie deal—to come through, I’ll just be making sure the right amount of electricity is getting where it needs to go, doing my part to train the next generation of superheroes—by which I mean scientists and engineers—and spreading the word about the power of measurement.

And hey, Wonder Woman, if you’re reading this, maybe we could team up sometime. I think we’d make a dynamo duo, don’t you?

Just keep it in mind.

Call me!

About the author

Ms. Ampere

Ms. Ampere represents and defends the SI unit of electric current for the Measurement League. When she's not making sure the right amount of electricity is getting where it needs to go or spreading the word about the power of measurement, she likes to watch thunderstorms and volunteer at her local animal shelter.

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Hi, Stan! I do love a handy reference guide. Thanks! I hereby induct you into the Measurement League. Congratulations!

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