The Story of Measurement by Andrew Robinson

story of measurementAn engaging, illustrated inquiry into the nature of measures

The Story of Measurement by Andrew Robinson is an inquiry into the nature of measures. The author links material from many, cited, sources into a comprehensive, engaging narrative covering meaning, nature and man. The images and text are excellent.

In the discussion of Figuring the Shape of the Earth, there is a picture of a “geoid”, a lumpy looking globe which is a model, based on measurement, of where gravity is stronger and weaker on the earth.

In the discussion of Music and Singing, there is a chart showing the acoustic spectra of a trained versus an untrained singer’s voice, showing the stronger harmonics (timbre, richness, tone) in the experienced performer’s sound versus the weaker harmonics (fundamental tone only) in the untrained singer’s sound.

I thought I was up to date on sciences and arts but Robinson caught me unaware on several counts. In Microscopes, I learned about the Atomic Force Microscope, which takes pictures of molecules by touching them. In Race, I saw images of a person as they would look if descended from different ethnicities and that, “There is no gene for race.” Also covered were Writing Systems, Verse, GPS, Atomic Clocks, Fractals, Relativity, Pollen Count, Sun Screen, Lie Detectors, Lotteries, Guns, Quantum, Infinity, Abacuses, and Hurricanes… to name a few.

There are 120 short subjects, each engagingly written, illustrated and referenced. You can dip in anywhere or read it cover to cover.

Amazon: The Story of Measurement, Andrew Robinson, 2007

Highlights: These pictures are not from the book but they do illustrate some of the topics that caught my interest.

geoids_smGeoid (Gravity is stronger at the red points, weaker at the blue)

afmAtomic Force Microscope (The tiny cantilever arm feels molecular surfaces)

conf_reps-v6n1-ros02Roman Concrete (the Romans invented concrete first)

geocentricGeocentric Universe (Aristotle and Copernicus were both right… and wrong)

harmonic singingPhysics of Singing (Trained singers resonate multiple tones at the same time)

faq_table_2_03The Human Race Machine (See yourself as another ethnicity)

Geoid image courtesy GRACE
Atomic force microscopy image courtesy ASU
Roman concrete image courtesy Great Names in History
Geocentric image courtesy Oswego
Singing image courtesy UNSW
Face image courtesy The Human Race Machine

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