October 10, 2005

Can we measure immeasurable things?

It is said that the most important things can not be measured.

I dare to make one amendment to this classic point – the most important things can not be measured DIRECTLY.

I graduated from the Physics department of Nizhny Novgorod University and during my last two years of study I dealt with the things which no one has ever seen and very unlikely will see in the nearest future. I don’t want mention these things here in order not to confuse anybody, you should trust me. However, I know for sure that humans in general, and physicists in particular deal with immeasurable things quite successfully. And the reason is if the thing exists it shows itself. It shows itself by interactions with the surroundings, by its reaction on internal actions and so on. Realizing how it influences on some measurements which we are able to perform (and which give us some ‘integral’ figures), we only have to find and to separate its participation on this process. Of course it sounds much easier that it is, but it is possible to do. And there are several things from the ‘Requirements’ part of our Excellence picture, which I feel must be measured:

  • Employees’ involvement and participation
  • Cooperation, not competition
  • Awareness of all stakeholders needs
  • Sharing knowledge
  • (the list may be continued)

The measurement of immeasurable things could be a great subject for the course project, isn’t it?

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Basing my science experience, I have to say that there are some things which we hardly can measure, anyway. In these cases we can only rely on our feelings, and quite strangely, at least at the first glance, the most reliable feeling is our sense of beauty. If we feel that there is a beauty inside the system we created, it is probably excellent.

    10 Oct 2005, 17:32

  2. Chris May

    As an ex-physicist, I'd sound a note of caution here: The qualitative methods that are appropriate for judging whether a conjecture in physics is likely to be right (simplicity, symmetry, elegance etc.) don't tend to apply nearly as well to problems where there are people involved – like the 4 you list above. Menken's dictum ("For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong") is worth keeping in mind here!

    Finding ways to measure these things would be a fascinating project, I think. But, as you imply in your comment, it may turn out to be the case that there's no more accurate approach possible than simply asking the people involved for their opinion! I look forward to hearing more about your project as it progresses.

    11 Oct 2005, 07:26

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