The Physics of Experimental Method

The Physics of Experimental Method

The Physics of Experimental Method

The Physics of Experimental Method


The methods of experiment used in physical investigations become more varied at the same time as our knowledge of physical facts and laws grows more extensive. The time available to a student learning physics does not, however, increase correspondingly, and inevitably the new facts and generalisations take precedence over details of experimenta- tion. The student beginning research therefore finds it increasingly difficult to choose methods and to plan details of his experiments.

In large research schools this difficulty is met by guidance from the staff and by discussion between students, but the more isolated worker may well find it serious.

For several years we have given in Manchester a lecture course on Physics of Experimental Method as part of the laboratory training of degree students. It is intended to call the attention of students to some of the principles of experi- ment and to some of the available techniques. This book has the same aim: it is not intended to compete with books which give fully detailed accounts of particular procedures, and references to such books are freely given. There is a fairly extensive list of references, which gives some preference to easily accessible books and papers, and to those which act as keys to further reading.

Some of the mathematical methods which form working tools for the experimental physicist are described in a long appendix to Chapter II, written by Mr. J. Maddox of the Manchester University Theoretical Physics department, who has had much experience in advising experimental workers on such matters.

I am glad to record my gratitude to Professor Blackett for encouraging me in writing this book, to several of my col- leagues and friends on whose knowledge and time I have drawn for advice and criticism, and to my wife who has given not only sympathy but very active assistance.


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