NIST Advanced Measurements Laboratory Dedication
June 21, 2004
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak at this ceremony. To a physicist, precision measurements have a status of almost mystical power. Throughout history, but especially in modern times, the tension between what we expect and what we observe has impelled the most radical innovations. Quantum mechanics began with careful measurements of the spectrum of thermal radiation. Most scientists were convinced of the need for the special theory of relativity by careful measurements of the effect of the earth's motion upon the speed of light, in this case a negative result. And one of the triumphs of Einstein's general theory of relativity was the explanation of a tiny discrepancy with Newton's theory in the observed precession of Mercury's orbit about the sun. These are among the most profound innovations in the entire history of science.
If anything, however, the power of precise measurement in more mundane human affairs is even greater. It is no accident that the British government made Sir Isaac Newton the Master of the Mint. Or that Archimedes made his most famous discovery puzzling how to determine the true composition of an object reputed to be made of gold. Trade requires means of making sure of what is delivered. And even the definition of what is delivered requires scientific precision.
Today's technology intensive products demand an unprecedented level of precision in definition and quality on a rapidly increasing set of physical parameters. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has established a reputation for delivering concepts, tools, and results for precision measurements that is unmatched in the world. The fundamental nature of the work required to produce these results has been recognized by the world's most prestigious honors to NIST employees.
The Administration understands and values this important work, and has requested funds from Congress for the forthcoming fiscal year to strengthen its foundation. The facility we are here to dedicate today is an important part of the technical means the U.S. Government must deploy to maintain its leadership in the world's economy.
I offer my congratulations on behalf of the Administration to those who planned and executed the challenging project that produced this impressive Advanced Measurement Laboratory. All Americans will benefit from its products.