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Sealed in a vault beneath a duke's former pleasure palace among the sycamore-streaked forests west of Paris sits an object the size of an apple that determines the weight of the world.Hundreds of scientists from around the world will gather this week in the opulence of Versailles Palace for the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures.There, in an act belatedly fulfilling the metric system's founding promise of "For all ages, for all people," they will replace the Grand K with a universal formula that defines the kilogram using the quantum laws of Nature.The meter was used in turn to define mass: however much a cubed decimeter (10 centimeters x 10 centimeters x 10 centimeters) of water weighed would henceforth be termed a kilogram.Instead of relating to the mass of a singular physical object, the kilogram will in future be defined in terms of the Planck constant the ratio of quantum energy a frequency of light can carry to that same frequency, or 6.626 x 10-34 joule seconds. Energy is intrinsically linked to mass, as Einstein demonstrated with his equation E = mc2.The Planck constant, combined with two quantum phenomena that allow for the creation of electrical power, can be used to calculate mass based on the equivalent mechanical power needed to displace it.
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