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Measurement is the process or the result of determining the magnitude of a quantity, such as length or mass, relative to a unit of measurement, such as a meter or a kilogram. The word measurement stems, via the Middle French term mesure, from Latin mēnsūra, and the verb metiri.[1] Metrologyis the science of measurement.



With the exception of a few seemingly fundamental quantum constants, units of measurement are essentially arbitrary; in other words, people make them up and then agree to use them. Nothing inherent in nature dictates that an inch has to be a certain length, or that a mile is a better measure of distance than a kilometre. Over the course of human history, however, first for convenience and then for necessity, standards of measurement evolved so that communities would have certain common benchmarks. Laws regulating measurement were originally developed to prevent fraud in commerce. Today, units of measurement are generally defined on a scientific basis, overseen by governmental or supra-governmental agencies, and established in international treaties. The metre, for example, was redefined in 1983 as the distance traveled by light in free space in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second. In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the United States Department of Commerce, regulates commercial measurements. In the United Kingdom, the role is performed by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

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