Quantifying Measurement

Quantifying Measurement
The Tyranny of Numbers

Jeffrey H. Williams
ISBN: 9781681744322 | PDF ISBN: 9781681744339
Copyright © 2017 | 132 Pages | Publication Date: November, 2016

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Measurements and experiments are made each and every day, in fields as disparate as particle physics, chemistry, economics and medicine, but have you ever wondered why it is that a particular experiment has been designed to be the way it is. Indeed, how do you design an experiment to measure something whose value is unknown, and what should your considerations be on deciding whether an experiment has yielded the sought after, or indeed any useful result? These are old questions, and they are the reason behind this volume. We will explore the origins of the methods of data analysis that are today routinely applied to all measurements, but which were unknown before the mid-19th Century. Anyone who is interested in the relationship between the precision and accuracy of measurements will find this volume useful. Whether you are a physicist, a chemist, a social scientist, or a student studying one of these subjects, you will discover that the basis of measurement is the struggle to identify the needle of useful data hidden in the haystack of obscuring background noise.

Table of Contents

1. The Tyranny of Numbers
2. The Error in All Things
3. A Language for Measurements
4. What is it that we Measure, and what is it telling us?
5. Measurement Uncertainty
6. Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement (GUM)
7. Clinical Trails
8. Direct Measurements: Quadrupole moments and stray light levels
9. Indirect Measurements: The optical Kerr effect
10. Data Fitting and Elephants

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey H. Williams, formerly at Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM)
My career has been in the physical sciences after obtaining a Ph.D. in chemical physics from Cambridge University, 1981. Firstly, as a research scientist in the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Illinois, and subsequently as a physicist at the Institute Laue-Langevin, France; the world's largest facility for the investigation of condensed matter science via the technique of neutron scattering. During this period as a research scientist, I published more than sixty technical papers and invited review articles in the peer-reviewed literature. I left research in 1992 and moved to the world of science publishing and the communication of science by becoming the European editor for the physical sciences for the AAAS's Science. Subsequently, I was the Assistant Executive Secretary of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the agency responsible for the advancement of chemistry through international collaboration.

Most recently, 2003-2008, I was the head of publications at the Bureau international des poids et mesures (BIPM). The BIPM is charged by the Metre Convention of 1875 with ensuring world-wide uniformity of measurements and their traceability to the International System of Units (SI). It was during these years at the BIPM that I became interested in, and familiar with the origin of the Metric System, its subsequent evolution into the SI, and the coming transformation into the Quantum-SI.

At the BIPM, I was the editor of their journal Metrologia, the leading technical publication for research on all matters related to weights and measures (published by the IOP on behalf of the BIPM). I was also responsible for editing the English and French texts (the French being the official text) of all the BIPM's publication; this included the SI Brochure, the BIPM's flagship publication about the SI, which is written by the BIPM's Consultative Committee on Units.

Apart from my technical publications and my editorial experience at peer-review journals and magazines, I have written widely about science, technology, the impact of science on society and the individual for general-interest magazines such as New Scientist and for more specialized magazines (Chemistry in Britain, Physics Today, Chemical & Engineering News, Physics World and Chemistry and Industry).

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