Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Dictionary of International Units

Around Papua New Guinea and perhaps in other places around the World you have probably seen road signs with the symbol ‘Km’.

And on some bags and packets of rice, and in some supermarkets you’ve probably seen a metric weight label ‘Kg’.

Both of these symbols are inkorrect.

A small k and not a capital letter must be used.

In Britain you might see ‘Kgs’ on the side of vehicles belonging to a national security company; ‘Kgs’ is another symbol that is inkorrect.

The symbol ‘kg’ does not have a plural form.

In fact a leading American Dictionary (Merriam-Webster) accepts the word ‘inkorrect’ exists!

One person who is keen to promote the correct metric symbols is Philip Bladon.

He worked for many years in PNG as a Chemistry teacher and School administrator.

Between 1982 and 2004 he taught at the following schools: Kaiapit/Markham Valley, Aiyura National High, Hoskins, and Cameron Secondary, Martyrs’ Memorial, and Ela Murray International.

I’m an ex student of Aiyura in 1984 and 1985 and I can remember him.

Mr Bladon, 53, is still keen to ensure that students and colleagues write ‘km’ and ‘kg’ (not ‘Km’ and ‘Kg’).

He also points out to advanced Physics students that the correct symbol for ‘kelvin’ (the unit for thermodynamic temperature) is ‘K’ (not ‘K’); the wrong symbol appears in some science textbooks.

Philip Bladon is now staying in England where he has written a book.

This has recently been published, ‘A Dictionary of International Units’, is full of the official SI (metric) units.

The ‘SI’ refers to the International System of Units (in French: ‘Le Système International d’Unités’), and designated SI in all languages.

This book, not only provides an excellent reference source for science students throughout their careers, it’s also a fascinating book for trivia buffs and a delight for enthusiasts of the board game Scrabble.

With a copy of this book you will soon enrich your vocabulary and discover unusual prefixes.

Schools, colleges, and universities should get at least one copy for their libraries.

An ebook version for IBM and Mac Computers is also available for individuals and institutions to buy.

This dictionary will also help teachers to ensure that their students receive the correct guidance on how to write metric names, symbols and numerical values.

For the non-scientists, like myself, a browse through this paperback can be extremely illuminating (unit: yottalux).

For symbologists and symbolists they can ponder over character sizes for example: ‘Zs’, ‘zs’, ‘ZS’, and ‘zS’.

For Historians they’ll discover the six nationalities of the 19 scientists whose surnames have been used for SI (metric) units.

Most are British.

The first letter of these unit names is not capitalized.

Compared to the large and expensive ISO (International Standards Organisation) documents on SI units available from Geneva, Philip Bladon’s Dictionary of International Units is excellent value and it’s fun.

Those with computers and Internet access can buy online from all the major bookstores, for example

It can also be ordered through most bookshops and in Australia the paperback costs approximately $18.

The dictionary will make a good graduation prize for maths, and science students especially those doing Physics.

Schools should order copies and allow plenty of time for them to arrive before the end of the year.

If a bookseller or book distributor in PNG contacts the publisher there are large discounts for bulk purchases.

Philip Bladon is a Fellow of the Institute of Science Technology, a life member of the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies, a member of the International Council of Associations for Science Education, and a member of Australian Mensa.

Mr Bladon’s other interests include outdoor tropical gardening, snake scalation, and the work of the Red Cross Red Crescent movement.

‘A Dictionary of International Units Metric-Matters: Names and Symbols’ Published by . ISBN: 13: 978-0-595 37115-0 (paperback) US $12.95 UK < £8, Australia $18 approx. ISBN: 13: 978-0-595 81515-9 (e-book) US $6.00. Available from online bookstores and can be ordered through leading bookshops.

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