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"Right. As I was taught at university (in physics), no experimental
result is any use without an estimate of the error."
True.. although sometimes even this is suspect. I can recall my university
days quite clearly. There was an obsession in the general stream of
students with getting "the right answer" with all the experiments. Students
would "fudge" results so the answers were close to the right answer [within
estimated error limits]... although unfortunately with no correlation at all
to the measured experimental results.
I got my degree in Physics in a class of 5 [up from the previous years class
of 0. The university had then massively overhauled the course in order to
attract students]. One experiment in particular was a classic one to
measure the ratio e/m for an electron. Nobody could get the "right answer"
with this apparatus. The prof assigned two teams to try to explain why.
The answer lay in the design of the apparatus. The filament was suspended
by two coils through which current passed... creating a magnetic field...
which was not negligible in the overall scheme of things.
Generations of students passed through getting the "right answer" with this
apparatus... even though it was impossible to do so unless one factored in
the effect of these coils.
Always seemed to me there was no point to faking results... but this type of
thinking seems to have spilled out into main stream [creative accounting,
fudging experimental results, etc... got to get "the right answer" ... all
properly documented with citations no doubt]
W. Hugh Chatfield I.S.P.
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