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Escape from Zanzibar: The Epistemic Value of Precision in Measurement

Isaac, Alistair M. C. (2021) Escape from Zanzibar: The Epistemic Value of Precision in Measurement. In: UNSPECIFIED.


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A “Zanzibar” is an island of measurement values that internally cohere, but are detached from independent contact with reality. In the history of physics, one manifestation of Zanzibars is through “bandwagon effects,” the tendency of contemporaneous measurements to agree. Bandwagons appear to be an example where the otherwise virtuous drive towards coherence has negative epistemic consequences. I argue that precision is an epistemic virtue that mitigates against bandwagon effects and illustrate the evidential power of precision for breaking bandwagons with a case study from the history of measurements of c. I conclude by demonstrating how precision-first reasoning motivates the practice of blind data analysis at the bleeding edge of high precision measurement, where measurement outcomes can point the way to new physics.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Isaac, Alistair M.
Keywords: measurement, precision, speed of light, coherence, bandwagon effect
Subjects: General Issues > Experimentation
Depositing User: Alistair Isaac
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2021 01:46
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2021 01:46
Item ID: 19849
Subjects: General Issues > Experimentation
Date: 14 October 2021

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