Measurements LO31026

From: leo minnigh (
Date: 03/22/04

Dear LO'ers,

The love for measurements surprises me again and again. Also on this
list, regularely requests appear for measurement tools and
instruments. Probably this affection is based on the digma "Meten is
weten" (Dutch expression), or in English 'To measure is to know'. In
my opinion measurements seldom lead to knowledge, but in the majority
of cases


Satisfaction, to back the doubt, or giving an excuse for a certain
execution or decision. This has nothing to do with knowledge. I think
in many cases the attraction of measurements is a sign of uncertainty.

Measuring is a delicate activity and the results are not at all
simple. Let me try to explain. I will give a known example from the
science of fractals. It is the challenge to measure the length of the
coastline of Great Brittain. And you will realise that measuring
lengths is much simpler than measuring human behaviour, intelligence,
etc. Is there anyone in this audience who know how many miles or
kilometres that coastline is? If we use a topographic map of the
Brittish isles and try to measure the length, correcting it by a
factor of the scale of the map, a certain value of the coastline will
be generated. Do we have measured the length of a coastline? There is
another group of persons who are also interested in the length. They
use another map on a much more detailed scale. Surprise, they will
measure a coastline which is much larger than the first group. Perhaps
there are some fanatic persons who decide to walk with a yardstick all
along the coast. Surprise, they will measure a much larger length than
the most detailed map could give. But the length will be even larger
if the measuring instrument was not a yard, but a foot in length. And
if even more detail is wanted, one will realise that a coastline is
impossible to measure. There is wet shore sand, muddy coastal planes,
the tides of the sea, etc. (What is truth, fact or something else? but
that is another discussion).

All these different lengths of the same thing - the coastline of GB -
show a mathematical relationship. In a graph with X the logarythm of
the scale of measurement (of the map, or measuring rod) and the Y the
logarythm of the coastal length, the result will be a strait line.

What is the lesson? The result of a measurement depends on the scale
of measurement, or the precision of the instrument. And this counts
for every kind of measurement.

Often, we measure things to bring order and to create categories: good
or wrong, guilty or unguilty, heavy or light, etc. Together with our
love for measurements, we love to put things in boxes. In a way these
loves are understandable, but what is not understandable is that these
boxes are treated as holy things.

Who has defined the limits between the boxes? On what type of criteria
and what measuring instrument is used for that definition? Do we have
not again created a sort of coastline? A coastline between the boxes.
How does this limit looks like? Is this limit defined on the same
scale as the scale of measurement?

It seems that living on hard ground is much better than living on
quick sand. Living with doubt instead of sureness makes people shaky
and vulnourable. So, the longing for sharp definitions and sharply
defined and measured categories is understandable and it is not
strange that this behaviour is so common.

However, lake the sea-land devision by a coast'line', one cannot
conclude that measuring or not measuring is good or bad. There is
always a transition zone between good or bad. Like there is a
transition between doubt and sureness. Let me stipulate one of the
many negative things of sureness:

Sureness closes the windows of the mind, whereas doubt keeps the
windows open.

Thus, if the activity of measurements is a sign of uncertainty, please
realise that measurements will create more uncertainty. If this
realisation and insight has sprouted in you, sureness has created the
paths to openness and wholeness.

Leo Minnigh


"leo minnigh" <>

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