World Metrology Day: Playing a Vital Numbers Game
IAEA Teams Up to Promote Safe and Standardized Measurements
On World Metrology Day 20 May, the IAEA and partners are emphasizing just how important standardized global measurements can be in the world of sports and others fields. (Credit: IAEA)
With Olympics on the horizon, athletes and sports enthusiasts the world over are focusing heavily on numbers - from competitive race times to energy burn rates. But yards or meters? Joules or calories? On World Metrology Day 20 May, the IAEA and partners are emphasizing just how important standardized global measurements can be in the world of sports and others fields.
For the IAEA, one important field of interest is radiation measurements, where the Agency works with multiple organizations and a worldwide network of dosimetry laboratories in the interests of public health and safety.
Accuracy and precision in measurements depends on calibrated scientific instruments and standardized units agreed through "le Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM)", the International Bureau of Weights and Measures based in Paris, France. It disseminates international units in the case of mass and time, and coordinates global comparisons of national measurement standards for length, electricity, and ionising radiation.
In this Olympic year, the theme of World Metrology Day 2008 is: No Games Without Measurement. That can include radiation measurements.
"In sports there is a direct relationship with the dosimetry of medical imaging, used to visualize injuries. The IAEA´s programmes provide vital support for quality assurance of machines and equipment that use radiation, such as diagnostic X-rays," says Pedro Andreo, Director of the IAEA´s Division of Human Health. More and more athletes, he noted, turn to specialists skilled in using nuclear medicine and imaging techniques to diagnose injuries, and spare time spent on the operating table.
Specifically, the IAEA supports dissemination of standards for radiation measurements through a secondary standards dosimetry laboratory (SSDL) network encompassing more than 65 countries. The primary standards are provided by the BIPM, which serves as the world´s repository for global weights and measures, as mandated by the 1875 Paris Convention du mètre (Treaty of the Meter).
"Through our work in radiation dosimetry, we aim to ensure that patients will be getting exactly the right dose of radiation that will contribute to their welfare, either in diagnostics or therapeutic procedures," Mr. Andreo says.
In partnership with BIPM, the IAEA verifies that national SSDLs follow internationally accepted metrological standards. The work covers instruments used for purposes of radiation protection. Known as dosimeters, the instruments measure the amount of radiation that a person absorbs from exposure to sources of ionizing radiation.
Due to its connection to radiation medicine, mostly in the fields of radiodiagnostics and radiotherapy, the SSDL network is operated with the World Health Organization (WHO). The IAEA Laboratories at Seibersdorf, Austria, serve as the hub of the network.
Beyond the network, the IAEA is also the home and distributor of international standards for stable isotope analyses of water and other substances. More specifically, hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope analyses are reported based on what is known as the Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water (VSMOW) scale. Values reported world-wide are calibrated to the VSMOW and Standard Light Antarctic Precipitation (SLAP) standards that the IAEA maintains and distributes.
"Many countries are benefitting from these IAEA standards and services to better understand and solve problems related to water resources, climate change, and ecology," says Werner Burkart, IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Sciences and Applications.
- Accurate laboratory measurements provide data that is vital in the analysis of food safety and environmental pollution, for example. Public policy in these areas depends heavily on sound scientific measurements, which confers considerable value upon laboratory standards and reference materials that are promoted and produced by the IAEA.
- The IAEA Laboratories in Seibersdorf and Monaco participate in BIPM activities on radionuclide and trace element analyses in the frame of the Consultative Committee for Amount of Substance - Metrology in Chemistry.
- The BIPM has selected the IAEA standard VSMOW with its well known ratios of hydrogen and oxygen nuclides as the base for high accurate temperature measurements of the triple point of water world-wide. This triple point temperature - when water is simultaneously liquid, gas, and solid - is a basic reference value for the international Kelvin temperature scale, mostly used to guarantee the accuracy of scientific research.
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