There is very little in the modern world that isn’t touched by the concept or practicality of weighing. From the floor model you have in your bathroom, to the kitchen scale that is sensitive to accurately weigh milligrams of ingredients for baking a cake, the way many things are measured happens with a variety of scales. So many products in our lives are sold by weight – it is the one true method to get an exact one-for-one ratio when it comes to cost vs. Product volume.
When you weigh something, you are determining its mass. The first scales used a balance beam type of mechanism and pans or dishes where the item to be weighed would be on one side and counterweight objects of various measurements were placed on the other side. When the sides balanced to “zero”, you had determined the weight of your item. Essentially, you use the force of gravity to determine the mass of one object against the known mass of another.
Today, many scales such as your bathroom scale use force to determine weight. The pan, or dish, in this instance is usually a plate that sits on a spring. When placing the object to be weighed on the plate, the force of gravity against the spring of the scale is what gives the outcome. The known mass in this instance is the degrees of force against the spring that will produce the various outcomes. Accuracy in weighing the mass of an object depends largely on the calibration that has been applied to the scale.
We have scales today that can measure the weight, or mass, of a particle of dust with an analytical scale all the way up to measuring the weight of a semi-truck with a hydraulic scale and everything in between. Other types of scales include mechanical spring scales, pendulum balance scales, elastica arm scales, and strain gauge scales to name a few. One of the most well-known weighing device is the supermarket, or retail, scale. Used at the meat or cheese counter, in the bakery, at the checkout, for seafood, or produce, this type of sealed mechanism scale is impossible to do without.
Probably the single most important aspect of scales has to do with their calibration. If scales are not calibrated correctly, their outcome will not be accurate. The calibration has to be of the right type based on the kind of scale – mass or force, and must be set to the correct increment. You wouldn’t want a load scale meant to measure the weight of the contents on a semi-truck set to an increment like milligrams. That would be impractical. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to set your average kitchen scale to measure by the ton. Increments and calibration are essential to being able to measure weight correctly and accurately.
Scales can be tested and certified as accurate, and in fact they should be in almost all instances, especially when used for commerce. Scales not used for trade or commerce do not have to be certified as long as they are labeled as such.
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