Measuring Instruments and Uses

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An astonishing array of devices and tools allow humans to measure just about everything, including calculating travel distances, determining a board’s length in construction, ascertaining air and water temperatures, analyzing wind speed, gauging the pressure inside a tire and measuring the distance around the globe. From height and depth, to width and breadth, there’s a measurement tool for most everything.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Humans employ multiple tools to measure their worlds:

  • Clocks calculate time's passing.
  • Thermometers measure air and water temperatures.
  • Pressure gauges assess the air or water pressure in a closed system.
  • Rulers, yardsticks and tapes determine the dimensions of an object.
  • Speedometers compute vehicular speed.
  • Odometers determine distance traveled.

Measurement Devices

Measurement devices come in all shapes, sizes and types. A sundial represents one of the earliest devices used to measure the sun’s position in the sky, until inventors created the first clocks, which measure the passing of time. The marine chronometer, invented in the 18th century, allowed ship captains to accurately depict longitude to help them successfully navigate the seas. Nowadays global positioning systems measure the distance from a GPS satellite to a specific location on Earth to pinpoint a position anywhere on the globe within a few meters.

Medical Measurement Tools

Doctors employ a variety of measurement tools to determine a body’s overall health. They use tools like an electroencephalography device to record and measure brainwave activity, a blood-pressure cuff to determine the pressure within the circulatory system and an electrocardiogram to measure heart activity to help look for disease. A scale calculates how much you weigh, while an extended ruler determines your height. Other medical measurement devices include sonograms, which use sound to capture and measure fetal development or a magnetic resonance imaging device to measure interior body structures for abnormalities. A new ingestible sensor currently allows doctors to measure a body’s vital signs from inside the digestive tract.

Devices Inside the Car

Inside your vehicle is a speedometer that measures the car’s speed calculated on tire size and placement, while the odometer gauges the distance traveled. Newer cars also have sensors that continually check air pressure within the tires to let you know when you need to add more air, as well as temperature sensors to determine oil and water temperatures inside the engine and air temps inside and outside the vehicle.

In the Home

To accurately cook meals from scratch requires the use of small scales, measuring cups and spoons to calculate the exact amounts needed to create a recipe for a meal. Soft-cloth measuring tapes and hard yardsticks quantify everything from fabric lengths for sewing and craft projects to board lengths to make those Adirondack chairs you always wanted for the patio.

Weather Instruments

Scientists and meteorologists employ multiple measurement tools to compute weather statistics. From the thermometer, which measures air temperature, to assessing wind speed using the anemometer, weather-measurement tools also include the rain gauge to quantify precipitation amounts, the barometer to evaluate air pressure and the hygrometer to appraise the rate of humidity.


About the Author

As a journalist and editor for several years, Laurie Brenner has covered many topics in her writings, but science is one of her first loves. Her stint as Manager of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in California's gold country served to deepen her interest in science which she now fulfills by writing for online science websites. Brenner is also a published sci-fi author. She graduated from San Diego's Coleman College in 1972.