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In an experiment that includes checking for defects, the results are described as follows:

Defects: A. None, B. Observed

Does “observed” necessarily entail that a defect was present, or could it simply mean that defects were checked for, but not necessarily seen?

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It is the defects that were "observed" under B, not the experimental set up that was observed. There's no ambiguity in this case. –  Kris Jan 22 '13 at 7:15
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The question isn't complete enough to be answered. Kris's assumptions about the meaning might be correct, but seem to be no more than assumptions which of course might be wrong. For example, A and B could be classes of defects, with “Defects: A. None, B. Observed” meaning that no class A defects were seen but some of class B were seen. –  jwpat7 Jan 22 '13 at 7:53
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@jwpat7 that is true, but irrelevant. Because either way, obviously "Defects: Observed" means just that, "defects were observed". Whether they appeared in setup B, or were of class B, is secondary. And then, of course, there's still "none". Obviously both "none" and "observed" have to include "checked for". (In fact any word in their spot will include that meaning, because these are the results of a check, after all.) So if "observed" meant only "checked for" and nothing beyond that, as the OP suggests, then "none" would make no sense at all. –  RegDwigнt Jan 22 '13 at 9:52
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@jwpat7 Entirely plausible. How does that change the implication of observed, though? Absolutely no change. Observed still implies existence. –  Kris Jan 22 '13 at 11:56
    
@RegDwighт, “obviously "Defects: Observed" means just that, "defects were observed"” seems unwarranted. Perhaps "Defects: Observed" means that it was a defect that something was observed, eg a supposedly-secret mission that was part of the experiment. –  jwpat7 Jan 22 '13 at 17:38
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closed as not a real question by jwpat7, Barrie England, RegDwigнt Jan 22 '13 at 9:39

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2 Answers

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It should be obvious that in the context, as elsewhere, observed implies "existence noticed".

Defects: A. None, B. Observed

A: None (observed) → There were no defects.
B: Observed → Defects (that were present) were noticed/seen.

It is the defects that were "observed" under B, not the experimental set up that was observed. There's no ambiguity in this case.

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This is a wording used frequently for results of experiments: it doesn't state ultimate facts, it states observations - scientists are very careful in stating these. Of course for all practical uses, that means the effects could be observed because they simply were there.

This isn't quite so obvious in optics, relativistic physics, quantum physics etc. - often effects observed do not correspond to neutral facts; you can see an ilusory image, which doesn't mean the image exists, it's just an abstraction, or you observe a particle at location X, but due to relativistic effects it's already at location Y at the moment of observation. Experiments report observations. It's then up to the theory to match them up with predicted facts.

Of course in plain old material mechanics, while the language remains the same, observing some effect means that effect happens for real, no mysteries of universe there.

...and just in case this isn't clear: No, it does not mean "futile observations were performed." - you observe a defect that exists. If there is none, you would at best see "None observed".

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+1 - perfectly good answer if not actually perfect. Downvoters have no grasp of Science. QM is getting a wee bit off topic but still relevant. QM sets the Schroedingers cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to observations - and the cat, and the pigeons, may be dead or alive when observed, BUT, not until then - so existence priot to observation is a meaningless concept - QM itself asserts. Agh ..question. . –  Russell McMahon Jan 23 '13 at 13:55
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