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English units of measurement

English units of measurement, principal system of weights and measures used in a few nations, the only major industrial one being the United States. It actually consists of two related systems—the U.S. Customary System of units, used in the United States and dependencies, and the British Imperial System. The names of the units and the relationships between them are generally the same in both systems, but the sizes of the units differ, sometimes considerably.

Customary Units of Weights and Measures

Units of Weight

The pound (lb) is the basic unit of weight (which is proportional to mass). Within the English units of measurement there are three different systems of weights. In the avoirdupois system, the most widely used of the three, the pound is divided into 16 ounces (oz) and the ounce into 16 drams. The ton, used to measure large masses, is equal to 2,000 lb (short ton) or 2,240 lb (long ton). In Great Britain the stone, equal to 14 lb, is also used. The troy system (named for Troyes, France, where it is said to have originated) is used only for precious metals. The troy pound is divided into 12 ounces and the troy ounce into 20 pennyweights or 480 grains; the troy pound is thus 5,760 grains. The grain is also a unit in the avoirdupois system, 1 avoirdupois pound being 7,000 grains, so that the troy pound is 5,760/7,000 of an avoirdupois pound. Apothecaries' weights are based on troy weights; in addition to the pound, ounce, and grain, which are equal to the troy units of the same name, other units are the dram (1/8 oz) and the scruple (1/24 oz or 1/3 dram).

Units of Length and Area

The basic unit of length is the yard (yd); fractions of the yard are the inch (1/36 yd) and the foot (1/3 yd), and commonly used multiples are the rod (51-2 yd), the furlong (220 yd), and the mile (1,760 yd). The acre, equal to 4,840 square yards or 160 square rods, is used for measuring land area.

Units of Liquid Measure

For liquid measure, or liquid capacity, the basic unit is the gallon, which is divided into 4 quarts, 8 pints, or 32 gills. The U.S. gallon, or wine gallon, is 231 cubic inches (cu in.); the British imperial gallon is the volume of 10 lb of pure water at 62℉ and is equal to 277.42 cu in. The British units of liquid capacity are thus about 20% larger than the corresponding American units. The U.S. fluid ounce is 1/16 of a U.S. pint; the British unit of the same name is 1/20 of an imperial pint and is thus slightly smaller than the U.S. fluid ounce.

Units of Dry Measure

For dry measure, or dry capacity, the basic unit is the bushel, which is divided into 4 pecks, 32 dry quarts, or 64 dry pints. The U.S. bushel, or Winchester bushel, is 2,150.42 cu in. and is about 3% smaller than the British imperial bushel of 2,219.36 cu in., with a similar difference existing between U.S. and British subdivisions. The barrel is a unit for measuring the capacity of larger quantities and has various legal definitions depending on the quantity being measured, the most common value being 105 dry quarts.

Differences between American and British Systems

Many American units of weights and measures are based on units in use in Great Britain before 1824, when the British Imperial System was established. Since the Mendenhall Order of 1893, the U.S. yard and pound and all other units derived from them have been defined in terms of the metric units of length and mass, the meter and the kilogram; thus, there was no longer any direct relationship between American units and British units of the same name. In 1959 an international agreement was reached among English-speaking nations to use the same metric equivalents for the yard and pound for purposes of science and technology; these values are 1 yd=0.9144 meter (m) and 1 lb=0.45359237 kilogram (kg). In the United States, the older definition of the yard as 3,600/3,937 m has continued to be used in many instances for surveying, the corresponding foot (1,200/3,937 m) being known as the survey foot; the survey foot will become obsolete in 2023.

The English units of measurement have many drawbacks: the complexity of converting from one unit to another, the differences between American and British units, the use of the same name for different units (e.g., ounce for both weight and liquid capacity, quart and pint for both liquid and dry capacity), and the existence of three different systems of weights (avoirdupois, troy, and apothecaries'). Because of these disadvantages and because of the wide use of the much simpler metric system in most other parts of the world, there have been proposals to do away with the U.S. Customary System and replace it with the metric system.

Bibliography

See L. J. Chisholm, Units of Weights and Measure: International and U.S. Customary (U.S. National Bureau of Standards, 1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

stone

Short for stony meteorite.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006

Stone

Native rock that has been processed by shaping, cutting, or sizing for building or landscaping use. It is fire resistant and varies according to type, from fairly porous to impregnable. There are three basic types of stone: igneous, such as granite, is long-lasting and durable; sedimentary, such as limestone, is made up of organic remains; and metamorphic rock, such as marble, is either igneous or sedimentary rock that has been transformed by pressure and heat or both.

alabaster

A fine-grained, translucent variety of very pure gypsum, white or delicately shaded, and used for ornamental work.

basalt

A dense, dark gray volcanic rock, often full of small cavities, used as a building stone.

Belgian block

A hard paving stone, typically granite, roughly cut to the shape of a truncated pyramid, where the top is slightly smaller than the base.

bluestone

A dense fine-grained sandstone that splits easily along bedding planes to form thin slabs.

brownstone

A dark brown or reddish-brown sandstone, used extensively for building in the United States during the middle and late 19th century.

cobble

Stone that is smaller than a boulder but larger than gravel.

cobblestone

A naturally rounded stone used in paving, wall construction, and foundations.

dolomite

Limestone consisting principally of the mineral dolomite.

fieldstone

Loose stone found on the surface or in the soil, flat in the direction of bedding and suitable for use as drywall masonry.

flagstone

A naturally thin flat stone, normally used as a stepping stone or as outdoor paving; sometimes split from rock that cleaves easily.

gneiss

A coarse-grained, dark metamorphic rock; composed mainly of quartz, feldspar, mica, and other minerals corresponding in composition to granite, in which the minerals are arranged in layers.

granite

An igneous rock having crystals or grains of visible size; consists mainly of quartz and mica or other colored minerals.

limestone

Rock of sedimentary origin composed principally of calcite, dolomite, or both; used as a building stone or crushed-stone aggregate, or burnt to produce lime.

marble

Metamorphic rock made up largely of calcite or dolomite; capable of taking a high polish, and used especially in architecture and sculpture; numerous minerals account for its distinctive appearance.

natural stone

A stone that has been quarried and cut, but not crushed into chips or reconstituted into cast stone.

obsidian

A natural volcanic glass, usually black with a bright luster, that is transparent in thin slabs.

quartzite

A variety of sandstone composed largely of granular quartz cemented by silica, forming a homogeneous mass of very high tensile and crushing strengths; used as a building stone and as an aggregate in concrete.

sandstone

Sedimentary rock that is composed of sand-sized grains naturally cemented by mineral materials.

serpentine

A group of minerals consisting of hydrous magnesium silicate or rock largely composed of these minerals; commonly occurs in greenish shades; used as decorative stone.

slate

A hard, brittle metamorphic rock characterized by good cleavage along parallel planes; used as cut stone in thin sheets for flooring, roofing, and panels, and in granular form as surfacing on composition roofing.

squared stone

Roughly dressed stone blocks with rectangular faces.

travertine

A variety of limestone deposited by springs, usually banded, commonly coarse and cellular, often containing fossils; used as building stones, especially for interior facing or flooring.

undressed stone

Not trimmed or rendered smooth.

verde antique

A dark green serpentine rock marked with white veins of calcite that takes a high polish; used for decorative purposes since ancient times; sometimes classified as a marble.

volcanic stone

A low-density, high-porosity rock composed of volcanic particles, ranging from ash size to small pebble size, which are compacted or cemented together; used as a building stone or as a thermal insulation material.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

stone

[stōn]
(geology)
A small fragment of rock or mineral.
(lapidary)
A cut and polished natural gemstone.
(mechanics)
A unit of mass in common use in the United Kingdom, equal to 14 pounds or 6.35029318 kilograms.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

stone

Any type of rock that has been selected or processed by cutting, shaping, or sizing for use in building construction or for decorative purposes; see brownstone, cobblestone, dimension stone, fieldstone, flagstone, freestone, granite, limestone, marble, pudding stone, rib vault, rusticated stone, sandstone, soapstone.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

stone

1. the hard compact nonmetallic material of which rocks are made
2. a small lump of rock; pebble
3. the woody central part of such fruits as the peach and plum, that contains the seed; endocarp
4. any similar hard part of a fruit, such as the stony seed of a date
5. Brit a unit of weight, used esp to express human body weight, equal to 14 pounds or 6.350 kilograms
6. the rounded heavy mass of granite or iron used in the game of curling
7. Pathol a nontechnical name for calculus
8. Rare (in certain games) a piece or man
9. any of various dull grey colours
10. made of stoneware

Stone

1. Oliver. born 1946, US film director and screenwriter: his films include Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), JFK (1991), Nixon (1995), and Alexander (2004)
2. Sharon. born 1958, US film actress: her films include Basic Instinct (1991), Casino (1995), and Cold Creek Manor (2003)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005

STONE

A Structured and Open Environment: a project supported by the German Ministry of Research and Technology (BMFT) to design, implement and distribute a SEE for research and teaching.
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