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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Curtiosity about measurement

Begin with the last one!

We must remember that measures were made for man and not man for measures
— Isaac Asimov ( - 1992), Of Time and Space and Other Things, 1965.
Whether or not a thing is measurable is not something to be decided a priori by thought alone, but something to be decided only by experiment.
— Richard P. Feynman (1918 - 1988), The Feynman Lectures on Physics, 1963.

A reference scale seen in a museum in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
I have measured out my life in coffee spoons
— T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965), The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 51.

Throughout the kingdom there shall be standard measures of wine, ale and corn.  Also there shall be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and halberject; namely [a width of] two ells within the selvedges.  Weights [also] are to be standardised similarly.
Magna Carta, signed June 15, 1215 A.D.

Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark
Holy Bible, Deuteronomy, 27:17.

Puck: I'll put a girdle round about the earth
      In forty minutes.
— William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), Midsummer Night's Dream, II. i. 175-6

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight.
Holy Bible, Proverbs 11:1.

Since we are assured that the all-wise Creator has observed the most exact proportions, of number, weight and measure, in the make of all things, the most likely way, therefore, to get any insight into the nature of those parts of the creation, which come within our observation, must in all reason be to number, weigh and measure.
— Stephen Hales (1677 - 1761), quoted by Paul Davies in The Mind of God, Penguin Books, 1990, p. 144.

Measurements of cosmic rays were being made on a disused platform of the Aldwych Underground railway.  Certain unexpected differences were detected in the intensity of the rays coming down in different directions through the hundred feet of London clay overhead.  These anomalies puzzled the scientists greatly for some days.  Then at length they hit on the very simple explanation.  The direction from which unexpectedly large numbers of rays were coming turned out to be the direction of the tramway tunnel that runs under the middle of the Kingsway . . . By means of cosmic rays we were able to take a cosmic-ray picture of a part of London's underworld in much the same way that X-rays are used to photograph the human body.
— P. M. S. (later Baron) Blackett (1897 - 1974), 'The Curious Phenomena of Cosmic Rays', a radio talk given in 1942, and published in Science Lifts the Veil, British Council, 1942.

Of course it will soak through at last, as all great scientific truths do — such as the doctrine of Natural Selection and the peculiar properties of the stuff called Ether, not to speak of Magna Carta, which even the poorest scavenger in the street to-day reveres as the origin of his freedom.
— Hilaire Belloc (1870 - 1953), 'Talking of the Nordic Man' in Stories Essays and Poems, Everyman Library 948, 1957, 50.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?  Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket or weighed the mountains on the scales or the hills in a balance?
Holy Bible, Isaiah 40:12, New International Version.

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.
— William Thomson [Lord Kelvin], Lecture to the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1883.

Bischoff, one of the leading anatomists of Europe, thrived some 70 years ago.  He carefully measured brain weights, and after many years' accumulation of much data he observed that the average weight of a man's brain was 1350 grams, that of a woman only 1250 grams.  This at once, he argued, was infallible proof of the mental superiority of men over women.  Throughout his life, he defended this hypothesis with the conviction of a zealot.  Being the true scientist, he specified in his will that his own brain be added to his impressive collection.  The postmortem examination elicited the interesting fact that his own brain weighed only 1245 grams.
Scientific American, March 1992, 8, quoting from an unidentified source in Scientific American, March 1942.

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