SNV Story No. 5: METAS

Wabern – where Switzerland measures more precisely than anywhere else

«Metrology?» – Is that where you try to forecast the weather? No, it isn’t. The word metrology is often confused with meteorology, but the two disciplines have nothing to do with each other. Metrology concerns itself with the science and technology of measurement (and is derived from the Greek word metron, meaning measurement). Meteorology deals with weather phenomena (and is derived from the Greek word meteoros, meaning «floating in the air»).

METAS is the Swiss competence centre for all questions relating to measurement, measuring equipment and measuring procedures. There’s a tendency to think that this particular science takes place in a manner somehow far removed from everyday life – but this impression is wrong. In our daily lives, we all benefit in one way or another from a world that can be precisely measured. Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Rohrer managed to boil this idea down to its essence: «150 years ago, the importance of the micrometre was quite obvious to a watchmaker but not to a farmer. However, it was the precision of the micrometre that ultimately revolutionized the way farmers plough their fields, as the micrometre made it possible to build the tractor.»

We met Dr Jürg Niederhauser and Dr Peter Blattner in Wabern. As Chair of the INB/NK 199 Light and Lighting standardization committee and of the Commission Internationale de l’Éclairage (CIE), Blattner demonstrates to us the vital importance of standardization on the national and international level. Join us in taking a glance behind the scenes of the Optics Laboratory and find out how LED technology is even capable of increasing our comfort in the office.

Our thanks go out to METAS for allowing us to be their guests.

Light can do far more than just illuminate

A working-from-home tip from the Head of the Optics Laboratory
Having the right light at the right time can do a great deal of good in terms of our productivity and health. However, it is unfortunately also the case that the wrong light at the wrong time has precisely the opposite effect. That’s why it is important for those working from home to keep the following in mind: Try to use the natural rhythm of the day. Or, to put it in terms that are even simpler: Get up with the sun and don’t try to work through the night in front of poorly lit computer screens in dark rooms. Use your lunch break to soak up a bit of sun or whatever midday light is available on a walk outside. By the way, this is probably the best tip you can get if you are suffering from jetlag: when you arrive at your destination, go outside around noon and let the sunlight shine on your face.

A, B or C – do you see the light?

You can measure almost anything. Test your knowledge.

How much does a blue whale weigh?
A 75,000 kg | B 133,000 kg | C 190,000 kg

On an adult person, what is the average length of the inner bone between the elbow and wrist?
A 0.22 m | B 0.25 m | C 0.28 m

How long does the blink of an eye last?
A 0.1 s | B 0.3 s | C 0.7 s

What is the temperature of outer space?
A –145°C | B –270°C | C –305°C

What is the luminosity of a candle?
A 5 cd | B 3 cd | C 1 cd

You can find the answers to this and other fascinating insights into the world of our units of measurement in the brochure «Unsere Masseinheiten - Das Internationale Einheitensystem SI».

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