In the 1960s, NIST moved from Washington DC to Gaithersburg, Maryland in part because the vibrations from city traffic were strong enough to affect the organization's ability to take proper measurements.
A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time. Computer scientists say it's about 1/100th of a second; electrical engineers clock it at around 1/60th of a second, but physicists view it as the time light takes to travel the radius of an electron.
It's estimated that 20 million speeding citations are issued in the United States every year and police radar units are used in 13 million of those cases.
In 2005 a team of Caltech scientists built the world's most sensitive scales. They can weigh a few "zeptograms" or the approximate mass of one protein molecule.
Narrator: If you're wondering how far or how long, how heavy, how fast or how cold, when you need to know you're working with, you've got to measure it. From radar guns to atomic clocks, speedometers to whale scales, the high precision tools that bear the heaviest loads, feel the heat and respond to the slightest touch, allow us to build our civilization. Now, Measure It, on Modern Marvels.