The original metre and kilogram. Solid platinum-iridum, France, 1879-1889.
Stored in a vault at the French Academy of Sciences is the metre, the length by which all other lengths are judged. Created in 1890 the metre is a precisely machined platinum-iridium bar. Developed as the foundation of its new metric system, and incorporating the ideals of its recent revolution, the French designed the metre to represent exactly 1⁄10,000,000 of the distance between the equator and the north pole passing—literally and symbolically—through Paris. The kilogram, too, a product of this era, is a small cylinder kept to this day in a vacuum chamber in France. All subsequent units in the metric system stem from, and are highly dependent upon, these two masters. The metric system was designed to be “for all people, for all time.”
Prototype clock, Long Now Foundation, USA, 2000.
Long Now Foundation
Established in 1996 by visionaries from technology, academics, music and art (in particular Stewart Brand of the original Whole Earth Catalog and Brian Eno, pioneer in loop-based music systems) to “creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.” The primary physical manifestation of their thinking is the construction of a 10,000 year clock built into a mountain in Nevada.
Randall Adams, wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, was acquitted because filmmaker Erroll Morris believes in absolute truth.
One his most influential (to the film world and the real world) documentary films was The Thin Blue Line (1988) about a man convicted and sentenced to die for a murder he did not commit. Morris proves the man’s innocence by examining case evidence through a series of highly constructed and stylized re-enactments and candid subject interviews. Upon the film’s release the case was reopened by authorities and the defendant (then on death row) acquitted. In interviews about his many documentary films Morris rejects the notion of post-modern constructivism:
“Truth is not relative, it’s not subjective. It may be elusive or hidden. People may wish to disregard it. But there is such a thing as truth. And the pursuit of truth: Trying to figure out what has really happened; trying to figure out how things really are.”
Metrology, the science of measurement, attempts to validate data obtained from test equipment. In practical applications it is the enforcement, verification and validation of the initial predefined standards developed from metrology research that must then account for its precision, accuracy, traceability, and reliability.
Accuracy is the degree of exactness by which the final product corresponds to the measurement standard, aka how well we relate to the objects. Preciseness refers to the degree of exactness that the measuring instruments can determine accuracy (or the degree of inaccuracy, actually, if we’re talking about the abstract). Reliability refers to the consistency of accurate results over consecutive measurements, and traceability refers to the ongoing validation that the measurement of the final product conforms to the original standard of measurement.
What I get out of this is that, OK you have a standard for measurement and then you see how well and how often your product stands up to that standard. And I think where I’m heading with this how often and accurately that standard should be updated.
What phenomena are they (we) experiencing?
I’m starting with some research in three parts that first seeks to understand the history of measurement, its goals, its employment; second, to explore modern production techniques and materials for longevity, precision, visualization, etc., for example: CNC machining, 3D printing, vacuum forming; and, thirdly, measure and figure out standards that have yet to be measured amongst us and myself. Measurements for my generation.
I have a few objectives so far:
To produce a series of precision-designed and manufactured objects (high res) that form a visual, tactile and quantitative representation of qualitative abstract references to particular physical distances, times, and spaces (lo res) experienced and to be experienced by and only by my generation.
I also want to demonstrate to future employers the employability of my understanding of, empathy for, and connection to my generation’s particular skills, desires and ideologies that are particularly difficult to articulate by and for previous and subsequent generations and my compulsion to tell their (my generation’s) stories through a balancing act of design pragmatism and idealism.
Some questions for me to answer:
- What do we measure today? What do we not?
- Is there a standard we don’t know about yet, but that we all use or abide by?
- Where is the line between the abstract and concrete?
- What phenomena do we experience but don’t talk about or measure, but by measuring would inform of us something interesting?
- Why did the French create the metric system? And do we share the same compulsion?
- Can a post-modern culture honestly pursue truth?
- Or are we in a post-post modern culture that has dealt with the hang-ups of post-modernism and can freely pursue truth again?
- How will the future view such objects?