As far back as I can remember, I've loved measuring things with accuracy and precision.  Electric current, Electric voltage, Electric resistance, Electric power, Alternating current frequency, Time, Temperature, and Mass.  If I could afford the instruments, I would also love to accuratly measure length, colors, luminous intensity, pH, amounts of substance, and many other things.

For 11 years I worked as a Civil Servant calibrating instruments that measured jet engine vibration, stress, high temperature ovens, pH, all sorts of electrical parameters, and several other things that I've forgotten at the moment.  My employer sent me to Precision Electrical and Mechanical Metrology school, which I enjoyed immensely.

For 16 years I worked for an Integrated Circuit manufacturing company where I measured oven temperatures, semiconductor resistances, and micrometer sized parts of transistor circuits with a Scanning Electron Microscope.  It wasn't as enjoyable as my Civil Servant job because there was more interaction with human beings, but still much better than many jobs.

At home I have several scales that accurately measure very light things to quite heavy things.  A year ago, when someone wanted to know something about raspberries, and I gave the answer in ounces and grams, I was quite surprised when they said they had no scale.

I've always had a special fondness for electronics, so I own an accurate voltage standard, several accurate multimeters (Fluke being my favorite), and quite a few other electronic instruments.  Would love to afford more high accuracy ones, just for fun.

I own several accurate physical thermometers.  I own a couple of infrared thermometers, but would like to afford more accurate ones.

I own a Sling Psychrometer for calibrating all my humidity meters, which my dry skin appreciates.  

I contemplated posting this in the Geek & Nerd group as I'm definitely a Geek/Nerd about measurements, but figured it would get more notice in the Science group.

That's enough for now.  If there's any interest, I'll discuss the scientific difference between accuracy and precision later.

Any measurement lovers out there?

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Lilac.  Most people would call it crazy.  

Now that I'm retired, I just do it mostly for fun.

Oh, there just might be!  For 24 years, I worked for Keithley Instruments in their Semiconductor Division.  One of Keithley's "core competencies" was VERY low current measurement.  When I first started with them in 1982, "low" to our systems meant being able to measure nanoamperes, which is to say, 1E-09 or .000000001 amperes.  With the advent of our S400-series tester, system leakage went down considerably, whereas the number of bits we used to do analog-to-digital conversion went UP, and if you were willing to wait the settling time, you could measure one picoampere or 1E-12 amperes.  The S600 system could go even lower.

Unfortunately, I don't own any references, just a humble Extech multimeter, which served me well after my Keithley 135 bit the dust after several years of reliable service.

One picoampere is amazing.  I don't think I ever had to measure anything lower than a microampere.  At home, I think I can get down to about 100 nanoamperes.

Loren, do you have any instruments for measuring your audio equipment?  A sound-level meter, or a frequency meter?

I have a couple of sound-level meters, and a frequency generator than I can use with a microphone and oscilloscope to measure frequencies.

I would love to have a sweep generator.

I have two, actually, on either side of my head.  They are colloquially called, "ears!"  In 40+ years of involvement in high-end stereo, I've learned a few things:

  • No instrument or set of instruments can fully encompass the performance of any piece of audio gear.  It can characterize SOME aspects, but that's as far as it can go.
  • EVERYTHING makes a difference, not just individual pieces of equipment, but cables, and indeed the direction the cables run in.
  • The only instrument which can fully evaluate what a given system is doing are human ears.

I should mention, too, that I used to work for Bruel and Kjaer, who built some of the finest audio metrology gear ever conceived.  Very good stuff, but still no match for human instrumentation as regards the genuine product:


Your keen ear for tone, your wonderful sharing of music! Gee! I have really been gifted having you as a sharing friend.

I am not at in tune with sound. Music is a distraction for me, although I do use music when I read non-fiction. 

My reading seems to be stunted too because I just cannot seem to get into it, or appreciate fiction, even those fine pieces you shared. I'm reading a book about physics, now, Lawrence Krauss's, The Greatest Story Ever Told...So Far, and I understand very little of it. He is an excellent writer, and after getting into his rhythm, I begin to know what he describes. And he is funny. 

Loren, are you a musician? a singer? 

I used to play piano, and I was passably good, but it's been so long since I have been next to a keyboard that I would have to retrain myself, especially my hands. At least I have The Cleveland Orchestra to listen to six times a year. They make genuine magic.

In college I sang with the Case Men's Glee Club, and I learned a lot from out choral director. What was more fun was singing along with Steely Dan with my daughter, driving home from gymnastics practice. That was "over a long time ago ... oh, yeah" but it was always a great time.

I think it's very special to be able to be so precise, and to handle numbers and gadgets with precision. I'm totally unable to do that, perhaps because I'm a little troubled by dyscalculia. I avoid numbers - it takes such concentration before they start to mean anything. For practical purposes I do well enough. I manage administration for my own household and for Aunt and brother-in-law, but I really hate to do that. When I sew or whatever, I use anything handy that helps me keep on the right track; a thumbnail, the length of my fingers or a piece of ribbon, and usually my work looks rather well organised. 

Sorry about your dyscalculia.  I never knew it existed before.  I had to find what it was on Wikipedia.

Do you have trouble with time? Trouble with distances?  Trouble with quantities and measurements when cooking?  Are some days more difficult than other days?

You reminded me:  I also use my fingers and feet to measure things quickly, when accuracy is not important.

Most of the time I manage well enough, and routine things like cooking and sewing give me no trouble because I don't measure and still know what I'm doing. Distances are no trouble if you travel by train in a country of 300 km. across, but even so I get confused at times. I always mix up years and I hate that - I try to pin years and occurrences together, like 1660, Samuel Pepys starts a diary. This way the numbers get more colour and meaning.

I didn't know there was a name for difficulty handling numbers or spaces, and like dyslexia, until it had a name it didn't seem to exist. I can say that as a teacher. Give it a name and doctors, teachers and parents give it credibility; until then, the kid was just not trying hard enough. 

As you say, you are able to handle your affairs as well as those family members who need your help.

you clearly find strategies to compensate for your disability; that takes intelligence. Mathematics and  spacial distinctions exist as only one form of intelligence, you have many other areas of strengths. The fact that you are a good teacher and want to teach testifies to that.  

Thanks Joan, you're too kind!


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