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The Philosophy and Consequence of Measurement


""Today we begin a series of Blog postings to generate discussion and comment around scientific measurement. We’ll begin by looking into the philosophy and consequence of measurement and continue in subsequent postings through the need for test equipment by looking at 6Ps (Precision, Power, Performance)- (Productivity, Portability, Package). We may also intersperse these with market and product specific news and comment.

So, what is measurement? In its broadest definition it means assigning numbers to things according to explicit rules

  • Measurement guides actions and supports decisions.
  • Measurement is therefore a key to knowledge.
  • Measurement is indispensable in our understanding of our self and our universe.

The great scientist, Lord Kelvin, once said, ‘When you cannot measure… your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind’. Kelvin, of course was a physicist where the art of measurement is both elegant & essential and it would be difficult to imagine physics without clocks, balances and metre sticks.

Another beauty of measurement is the skill required in making accurate measurements through setup, calibration and implementation. The application of measurement science by a skilled engineer who utilises the correct tools and science in interpreting results to make informed decisions which ultimately impact a products viability and life span.

Measurement might be the key to scientific knowledge but some see measurement as a necessary evil, a cost that cannot be avoided and even a thing to be eradicated. They do not embrace measurement and the effective decision making it validates as the most cost effective path to product development purpose and longevity. Effective measurement is much more than a cost in test.

The art of measurement also embraces a rich vocabulary utilising terms which are both scientific and full of emotion such as uncertainty, resolution, tolerance, confidence, erroneous, spurious, dither, distortion and many more.

Measurement is therefore a complex, varied, diverse arena steeped in history and vital to the progress of our modern world.

Measurement is potentially at a point of step change as the ever increasing demand for more information comes with the dual challenges of increasing precision while decreasing power yet we still tackle fundamental measurements such as how to best measure current, voltage and the fundamentals of time, frequency and scale.

Wherever you are in your measurement, be assured, you are part of a great science.

The great virtue of measurement is that it enables us to bring mathematics to bear on our problems. It is not numbers themselves that we prize so highly, it is what the numbers enable us to do and what we can do with them is intimately related to the extent to which the rules of measurement we use exploit all the properties of the number system. Outside a supporting framework of problems, facts & theories measurement is empty; inside such a framework it may unlock the secrets of the universe and to you or your company success.

Rejoice in your measurements. Demand more and enjoy this series.