It is now over ninety years since the first edition of Kaye and Laby's tables was published. Over that period a further fifteen editions were published at, roughly, five- to ten-year intervals.
Following the launch of the sixteenth edition, the Editorial Board considered how the next edition should be prepared and what form it should take; should we propose a pocket version or a CD-ROM-based edition? We also explored publishing Kaye and Laby as a web-site.
Above all, we felt, and our contributors agreed, that the tables were still extremely useful and that the tradition started by Kaye and Laby should be maintained.
Our hope was that a paper version and a web-site could be launched together. However our publisher decided, for policy reasons, that he was not able to support the next edition of the book. The contract with the Editorial Board stipulated that, when the stocks of the sixteenth edition were exhausted, ownership of the rights to Kaye and Laby should pass to the Board. No alternative publisher was found.
The Editorial Board agreed then that publication through an internet site should be its prime aim.
Now that internet access is more universal, publishing through a web-site offers several advantages. We can expect a far wider readership, particularly if there is no charge. We would no longer be tied to a date for a next edition and tables may be updated whenever there is new or corrected information. In theory then, Kaye and Laby would be always up-to-date. While the present contributors are included by invitation, the updating potential could attract others to offer contributions to the Editorial Board. Finally, the web-site offers an excellent facility for extraction by its users.
The board felt that they were not able alone to handle the design and development of a web-site together with its publicity and maintenance. They were delighted when the National Physical Laboratory, which has had a close association with Kaye and Laby from the initial edition, offered to host the web-site and meet the costs.
NPL is now the manager of Kaye and Laby with the full support of the Editorial Board, which will act as NPL's advisor and interface with the contributors.
With this new edition Kaye and Laby achieves 84 years of service. Over this period the scope of physical and chemical data required for everyday use has increased enormously and this is reflected in the size of recent editions. Successive Editorial Boards have always been at pains to ensure that the intentions of the original authors should be maintained: the primary criterion for the inclusion of material is that it should be of value not only to specialists but more generally to scientists working in a variety of fields. The present Board believes that Kaye and Laby's appeal has become more broadly based over the years and it includes material of value also to engineers and to students.
In this edition all the material has been scrutinized and revised as necessary to take account of new results. Several completely new sections have been added covering, for example, medical ultrasonics, fibre optics, high temperature superconductivity, atomic spectroscopy, infra-red and Raman spectroscopy, mass and UV-visible spectrometry, flash points and explosive limits in air and auto-ignition temperatures, Rutherford scattering formulae and magnetic and electrostatic bending radii. In addition, new chapters on laboratory safety and quality assurance have been added and the section on statistical methods has been rewritten as a new chapter. These three chapters are not intended to provide a complete treatment of their subjects, but rather an introduction with pointers to more definitive texts. However, the Board felt strongly that Kaye and Laby should not ignore such subjects. In addition, many of the explanatory texts that accompany the tables of data have been enlarged so as to provide easier access to the information for the non-specialist reader.
Dr G. W. C. Kaye, F.R.S., one of the original authors, was Superintendent of the Physics Department of the UK's National Physical Laboratory and after he died in 1941 other physicists at that laboratory contributed to the 9th edition, which was then in preparation. This close association has continued to the present day but with contributors drawn increasingly from other UK national laboratories and universities as well. This diversity in the backgrounds of the contributors to succeeding editions must be a source of strength for Kaye and Laby. The members of the present Board, who are working or have worked at the National Physical Laboratory, the Laboratory of the Government Chemist and the UK Atomic Energy Authority, hope that they have maintained the traditions of Kaye and Laby while bringing in a degree of freshness to this edition.
The provision of standards of measurement and of high-accuracy data is an important factor in the economic well-being of a nation and has long been accepted as a responsibility of government in industrialized countries. We may perhaps repeat the hope set out in the preface to the previous edition, and now even more urgent, that future governments will continue to support long-term programmes in national laboratories for the generation of scientific data, which only those laboratories can provide.
The need for a set of up-to-date English physical and chemical tables of convenient size and moderate price has repeatedly impressed us during our teaching and laboratory experience. We have accordingly attempted in this volume to collect the more reliable and recent determinations of some of the important physical and chemical constants.
To increase the utility of this book, we have inserted, in the case of many of the sections, a brief resumé containing references to such books and original papers as may profitably be consulted.
Attention has been paid to the setting and accuracy of the mathematical tables; these are included merely to facilitate calculations arising out of the use of this book, and limitations of space have cut out all but a few of the more essential functions.
We began the book while at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and Dr G.A Carse shared in its inception. To Mr G.F.C.Searle, F.R.S., we feel we owe much for his encouragement and suggestions when the scope of the book was under consideration....
While all reasonable care has been taken in compiling these tables, neither the publishers nor the editors or contributors can accept any liability or responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained in the tables.
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