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Applying Magna Carta and the Concept of the Measurement Standard - the Etalon

Updated: Oct 10, 2022


To connect the concept of measurement standard, reference standard, étalon to Canadian law, Canadian constitutional law, and international measurement science.

To suggest to the Court that if measurement is a comparison, then it must always be a comparison to the international measurement standard, reference standard, étalon.

Excerpt from para 35 Magna Carta 1215
Magna Carta 1215, s. 35 in Latin and 2 English translations

Cross-examination excerpt

Q. Now we have the truck sitting on the weigh scale, and the measurement is recorded in paper clips. Somebody at the Ministry of Transport makes a phone call, and says, we’ve got a problem, because Canada’s Weights and Measures Act says we need to do this report using the metric system. One of the difficulties that I have is that – no, let me do it this way. Now we’re going to test your Latin. A. Test my Latin? Q. One of the problems, I want to suggest to you, that has been in science, and in trade, and in measurement generally, throughout the years, has been the difficulty that in London one measurement of corn might be in kilo-blue-paper-clips, and a measure of corn in York could be in kilo-green-paper-clips. A. Are you talking about Ontario or England? Q. Let’s talk about England...

A. Okay. Q. ...right now. And so I want to suggest to you that an important scientific principle in scientific history was developing around the same time as Magna Carta. MR. O: Your Honour, I’m just wondering about the relevance of all this. I mean, we’re....

MR. BISS: Q. So, I need your scientific help. A. Okay. Q. Not your historic – you don’t have to wear your historian hat. A. I’m here to assist the Court. Q. You’re here to assist as a scientist. A. Yes. Q. The principle of having one measure in the

whole realm, in other words, that we don’t just measure in blue paper clips in one city and green paper clips in another city. We have a standard measure throughout the whole measuring system. Is that an important scientific principle? A. Yes. Q. And it’s important because there is a concept running all through measurement science of a concept of traceability. A. Yes. Q. That any measurement result that’s obtained on any day has to be traceable back to the international units of measure. A. It has to be traceable back to something. I don’t know what, but it has to be traceable back to something. Q. Well, we’re going to talk about calibration in a little while, but I want to suggest to you that the concept of traceability requires a connection between any measurement result and a standard. A. Yes. Q. Now the difficulty with this translation, and there are a couple of different translations of Magna Carta here. One of them uses the word ‘standard measures’ and one of them uses ‘one measure’, but I want to suggest to you that the English word ‘standard’ and I know you have a good background in French, the English word ‘standard’ causes difficulty in measurement science because the English word ‘standard’ in some places in measurement science translate as – translates into French as the word ‘normes’, N-O-R-M-E-S, like as in "recommended standards". A. Yes. Q. In other places in measurement science the

English word ‘standard’ translates into ‘type’. Just like type of instrument, or type of "Toyota Highlander", a genre. A. Yes. Q. And the word ‘standard’ in other places in measurement science translates into something called the ‘étalon.’ A. I can’t answer that question. Q. All right. The French word for calibration is ‘étalonnage.’ A. I will take your word for it. Q. All right. So, what I’m going to.... THE COURT: I hope you can spell that for the benefit of Madam Reporter. A. That’s why I don’t do trials in French. MR. BISS: I certainly wouldn’t want to do that. I’m going to go back to Exhibit 18 Your Honour, and all of this really has to do with the difficulty of measuring the massive trucks in paper clips. I mean we – we just don’t do that. We use the metric system, maybe on a day to day basis we use inches and yards, some of us, but the point is, from a scientific perspective in doing a quantitative analysis you need to be using a system of units that is that works in relationship to the international system of units. Q. Right? A. Yes. Q. The word ‘calibration’ on page 28 of Exhibit Number – for His Honour’s benefit – Exhibit 18, page 28, down at the bottom. What’s a calibration in English? A. 2.39?

Q. 2.39, page 28.

Exhibit 18, Excerpt from VIM

A. “Operation that, under specified conditions in a first step establishes a relationship between the quantity values with measurement uncertainties provided by measurement standards and corresponding indications with associate measurement uncertainties and, in a second step, using this information to establish a relation for obtaining a measurement result from an indication.” Q. All right, and in that definition, note number two indicates that you shouldn’t confuse the concept of calibration with adjustment of the measurement system, right? A. “Calibration should not be confused with adjustment of the measuring system, often mistakenly called self-calibration, nor with verification of calibration.” Q. So, those are all different concepts, adjustment’s a different concept, verification’s a different concept. The point is that a calibration is an operation with specified conditions attached to it, that establishes a relationship between the quantity values, the next part I’m not going to ask you about right now, provided by measurement standards. Right? A. Yes. Q. So – and just by the way, just beside it, is the French version of the same thing, and it’s called ‘étalonnage.’ Right? A. Oui, c’est sa, yes. Q. All right. And the spelling, I’m going to pass a copy Madam Clerk – Madam Court Reporter in a little while to help her with the spelling. E-T-A-L-O-N-N-E-G-E. And the word ‘measurement standard’ the equivalent, if you just look at the bottom of page 28, the measurement standards,the corresponding word in French is ‘étalon’.

A. Yes. Q. Right? Now, measurement standards is also defined in the same document. And that’s at page 46 under 5.1. And then it gives some examples of measurement standard. What’s the definition of measurement standard that’s there?

Exhibit 18, Excerpt from VIM

A. “Realisation of the definition of a given quantity with stated quantity value and associated measurement uncertainty, used as a reference” Q. All right, I’m not going to ask you about measurement uncertainty. A. Then there’s a number of examples after that. Q. And there are a number of examples of the things... A. And notes. Q. ...that are examples of measurement standards, and they include metre, they include... A. Kilogram. Q. ...kilogram. All right

Kilogram reference standard in France

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