Forces and Motion

Not a level-playing field?

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

Countries base their measurements of elevation above sea level on different reference locations, as shown in the table below:

CountryReference Location
Great BritainNewlyn
Italy Genoa

The use of different sea level reference locations caused a problem during the construction of the Hochrheinbrücke bridge between Switzerland and Germany in 2003 and 2004. The German engineers based their measurements on sea level in the North Sea, while the Swiss used a standard set to the level of the Mediterranean, a difference of 27 cm. While the engineers were aware of the difference in standards, at some point an error led to the correction being applied twice, leading to a height difference of 54 cm. It is reported that the engineering company’s insurance covered the additional costs incurred because of the error.



2023 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Awards

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more