The direct use of a physical law for the purpose of measurement creates a problem of circularity: the law needs to be empirically tested in order to ensure the reliability of measurement, but the testing requires that we already know the value of the quantity to be measured. This problem is discussed through some detailed examples of energy measurements in quantum physics; three major methods are analyzed in their interrelation, with a focus on the method of “material retardation.” It seems that the only reasonable solution is to establish the law needed for the measurement by relying on an alternate method of measurement. This solution is also circular, since it amounts to letting different measurement methods justify each other. However, this circularity can be fruitful for the process of concept building; meaning can be created in a web of interconnected measurement methods.
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June 01 1995
Circularity and Reliability in Measurement
University College London
Online Issn: 1530-9274
Print Issn: 1063-6145
©1995 by The University of Chicago. All reserved.
The University of Chicago. All reserved.
Perspectives on Science (1995) 3 (2): 153–172.
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Hasok Chang; Circularity and Reliability in Measurement. Perspectives on Science 1995; 3 (2): 153–172. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/posc_a_00479
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