Measurement seems like a simple concept and on the surface it is
just a representation of numbers and their quantifying units. People
use the different units of measure so frequently in daily life that
their significance sometimes takes backstage. Right from exchange
of currency to filling up gas and measuring time, units are practically
everywhere! Whatever the measurable property, be it mass, length or
time, the underlying fundamentals remain the same. Throughout history
various systems of measurement have been used, without a need for
The fundamental theory of measurement of any given quantity helps
in determining and assigning a numerical value to it. The need for
various systems of measuring values has come from the nature of the
property to be measured and the objectivity in quantifying it. This
means that the same quantity can be represented by different scales
based on several factors. Interpreting the goal of each measurement,
the utility and the practicality of showing a value in a particular
system are all part of the picture that guide in the choice of the
scale to measuring quantities. This is evident from the more ancient
systems of measuring time and the manner in which early calendars
represented days by distinguishing on the basis of planetary phenomena.
In those times adopting a universal system would have been impossible
unless there was some trade or economic exchange between the various
societies. Thus there existed the Julian calendar as also the Gregorian
calendar, and each civilization stuck to its accepted norm of calculations.
In today's world however there is a strong necessity for uniformity
in measuring data. There are primarily two internationally accepted
standards of weights and measurements. The English system is based
on yards/feet/inches whereas the metric system includes the meter/centimeter/millimeter.
At a basic level the metric system is apparently broken down in ratios
of 10 units while the English system is based on a system of 12 units.
Although both systems have gained widespread acceptance and application,
when it comes to converting values from one of the systems to another,
that is an entirely different story altogether! Seemingly unrelated
in numerical terms, the metric and English systems are still very
useful measurements and it is relatively simple to represent a figure
in meter as it is in yards, just by tweaking numbers here and there.
And this is where the need for consistency in measuring values comes.
As such, whether it is the SI system or scientific notation, or the
complex English system, whatever the favored method of representing
values, it is imperative that one understands the need to show data
with a level of uniformity. Associating a value of a physical quantity
and measuring it in terms of natural characteristics has been an accepted
norm in the past. For instance many units were measured based on the
dimensions of the human body, including the unit termed 'cubit'. However,
it is only when one realizes the significant scope for error in such
measures that one understands the need for a more systematic approach
to measuring anything.
Thus, the value of standardization in measurement is undeniable.
Consistent representation of values is necessary in all areas be it
in medicine where a nurse administers a particular drug or in technology
where scientists constantly strive to research and reveal experimental
data, which again must be depicted with a degree of regularity. It
is as important to measure a quantity right as it is to show the value
in an accepted and practical system of measurement. Each system has
its advantages and the best option is decided based on who the data
is intended for - the audience. This is crucial since the accepted
and well-known systems are different in the various parts of the world,
and it is as important to show correct information as it is to explain
it in a manner than can be comprehended easily.