..... Stumper Index
Stumper #23.
H
o
w

g
o
o
d

i
s

y
o
u
r

s
c
i
e
n
c
e

K
Q
?

How Good Is Your Science KQ?

[i.e. your Knowledge Quotient]

Modern Measurements Are 'a bit' More Precise.

How far is a mile? Well, the 'mile' in Roman times was 1,000 double-paces, a distance that we would now describe as about 5,000 feet. However, in the modern world, a mile is longer than that; it is, of course, 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards or 1.609344 kilometers. The lengths of a yard and a meter, like many current units, have been standardized so that they are reliable and accurate measures of distance.

Despite a gradual introduction of better defined, standardized systems of measurement, there remained in use throughout the world a confusing variety of units. And so, about fifty years ago, an international congress devised the metric-based SI system of units of measurement (System Internationale de Unites). Most countries in the world have accepted the new system and are using it - particularly in science. The unfortunate failure of the US to adhere to this standard led to the 1999 Mars Climate Orbiter crash, which resulted from human entry of computer data in pounds instead of newtons.

The modern digital computer era has introduced some new units of measurement with which we are just becoming familiar. Digital computers employ binary arithmetic (ones and zeros) and electronic units with names like 'bit', 'byte', 'kilobyte', and 'megabyte'. The millions of people using computers today see these new words and often have no idea what they represent. However, they accept with gratitude the 'gigabytes' of hard disk storage space on their newer machines.

The term 'bit' represents one unit (zero or one) of binary information. A 'byte' on modern computers is a unit of 8 bits, which is the current standard used to represent one character. Units of 8 bits per byte have not always been the norm. Some early machines, following Teletype practice, used fewer bits to represent two octal digits or any one of 64 alphanumeric characters.

Stumper questions:
a) How many bits are there in a gigabyte?
b) What is the name given to a half byte? (If you don't know, try guessing!)
c) How few bits are needed to represent two octal digits?


'Bit' is a contraction of 'binary digit' coined in 1946 by John Tukey
'Byte' was coined by Werner Buchholz in 1956


Answer Button

[Home]
Send feedback to
Explorit Science Center, P.O. Box 1288, Davis, CA 95617, USA
Phone: (530)756-0191     Fax: (530)756-1227