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Re: Numerical accuracy/precision - this is a bug or a feature?

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  • Subject: [mg120249] Re: Numerical accuracy/precision - this is a bug or a feature?
  • From: "W. Craig Carter" <ccarter at mit.edu>
  • Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2011 21:20:41 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <ius5op$2g7$1@smc.vnet.net> <ius7b6$30t$1@smc.vnet.net> <iv9ehj$dct$1@smc.vnet.net> <ivjgfp$2b9$1@smc.vnet.net> <201107140921.FAA15620@smc.vnet.net>

On Jul 14, 2011, at 11:21 AM, Richard Fateman <fateman at cs.berkeley.edu> wrote:
> Learning mathematics from a physicist is hazardous.
> Learning computer science from a physicist is hazardous too.
> Numbers in a computer are different from experimental measurements.

I believe that I won't be the only one who objects to this hyperbole and limited world view. I've learned poor quality math from poor quality instructors---but this is not "hazardous.". I've learned  what I believe to be high quality math from excellent physics and mathematical physics instructors.

Every experimental measurement of a continuously varying quantity will have some imprecision. Entering that number into a computer may or may not add to the imprecision. Keeping track of the sources of imprecision is what good experimentalist does. 

Of course, an experiment is different from a number; but the experimentally d
etermined number and its sources of imprecision  in a computer is just another number on the computer. There is no difference in meaning unless the precision of the experiment exceeds that of the measurement.

WCC


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