This is “Measurements”, chapter 2 from the book Beginning Chemistry (v. 1.0).
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license. See the license for more details, but that basically means you can share this book as long as you credit the author (but see below), don't make money from it, and do make it available to everyone else under the same terms.
This content was accessible as of December 29, 2012, and it was downloaded then by Andy Schmitz in an effort to preserve the availability of this book.
Normally, the author and publisher would be credited here. However, the publisher has asked for the customary Creative Commons attribution to the original publisher, authors, title, and book URI to be removed. Additionally, per the publisher's request, their name has been removed in some passages. More information is available on this project's attribution page.
For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. You can browse or download additional books there. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (40 MB) or just this chapter (3 MB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).
Data suggest that a male child will weigh 50% of his adult weight at about 11 years of age. However, he will reach 50% of his adult height at only 2 years of age. It is obvious, then, that people eventually stop growing up but continue to grow out. Data also suggest that the average human height has been increasing over time. In industrialized countries, the average height of people increased 5.5 inches from 1810 to 1984. Most scientists attribute this simple, basic measurement of the human body to better health and nutrition.
Source: Chart courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm#Set%201.
In 1983, an Air Canada airplane had to make an emergency landing because it unexpectedly ran out of fuel; ground personnel had filled the fuel tanks with a certain number of pounds of fuel, not kilograms of fuel. In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft was lost attempting to orbit Mars because the thrusters were programmed in terms of English units, even though the engineers built the spacecraft using metric units. In 1993, a nurse mistakenly administered 23 units of morphine to a patient rather than the “2–3” units prescribed. (The patient ultimately survived.) These incidents occurred because people weren’t paying attention to quantities.
Chemistry, like all sciences, is quantitative. It deals with quantities, things that have amounts and units. Dealing with quantities is very important in chemistry, as is relating quantities to each other. In this chapter, we will discuss how we deal with numbers and units, including how they are combined and manipulated.