News / USA

If You're Into Science, NIST Shouldn't be Missed

The nation's official measurer does some really cool stuff

Multimedia

Audio
Ted Landphair

Flourescent nanodots created at NIST help mark faulty genes.
Flourescent nanodots created at NIST help mark faulty genes.

Next year will mark the 110th anniversary of a U.S. government agency that is unknown to most Americans. Yet its work affects their everyday lives in countless ways.

Generations knew the agency as the National Bureau of Standards. When it was founded in 1901, electricity was just making its way into widespread commercial use, and the nation used a variety of standards to measure length, weight, and mass. There were something like 30 different ways to measure quantities of liquid, for instance.

The agency is now known as NIST - the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Washington Post newspaper calls its 235-hectare headquarters complex in Maryland "Uncle Sam's House of Wonders".

This is a corner of the document that some call America's birth certificate, which NIST helped to hermetically seal. It's a 1507 map, now at the Library of Congress, that showed the word America for the first time.
This is a corner of the document that some call America's birth certificate, which NIST helped to hermetically seal. It's a 1507 map, now at the Library of Congress, that showed the word America for the first time.

There, NIST technicians and scientists come up with new ways to measure things, set standards for products, and test new technology in all sorts of industries. On a separate campus in Boulder, Colorado, NIST maintains the earth's atomic clock, which is thought to be so accurate, it would take more than 100 million years for it to gain or lose a single second.

NIST standardized smoke detector readings, X-ray machines, cholesterol calculations, and gasoline pump calibrations. For the National Archives, NIST scientists enclosed America's "Charters of Freedom" - the Declaration of Independence and Constitution - in aluminum blocks, sealed with tempered glass.

NIST helped evaluate various sensors that will likely become part of US soldiers' combat uniforms. They include tiny cameras and sensitive audio microphones.
NIST helped evaluate various sensors that will likely become part of US soldiers' combat uniforms. They include tiny cameras and sensitive audio microphones.

One giant room on the NIST campus is filled with exotic milling, machining, and other industrial equipment. Here, specialists make instruments for NIST researchers, who in turn test everything from bullets to football helmets.

They invent things, too. NIST scientists developed a device that turns computer documents and electronic messages into Braille for the sight-impaired.

These days, NIST is especially hard at work on nanotechnology, cybersecurity, and efforts to create a nationwide "smart" electric grid. The agency that standardized fire hoses and once re-measured and corrected the exact length of a meter has a brand-new complex that is testing and measuring matter as small as an atom.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs