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For 115 years the "gold standard" of mass has been a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of platinum-iridium alloy, specially housed outside of Paris. Now a group of scientists is arguing that the artifact is archaic and the time has come to redefine this most basic measuring unit.
"If you buy a kilogram of flour from France, you know it is the same as it is here," said Peter Mohr from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States.
This is because all high-precision scales around the world are traceable to the plum-sized cylinder of metal – "The Kilogram" – at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM). Other countries bring their standards to Paris to compare – something the U.S. has done three times since the inception of the international standard in 1889.