Issue 293: How to determine observable entities?

Starting Date: 
Working Group: 
Closing Date: 

Posted by Martin on 7/10/2015

Dear All,

Following todays discussion about business transactions we'll report later, it appears that the examples of E54 are not consistent:

E54 Dimension

Subclass of:         E1 CRM Entity

Scope note:         This class comprises quantifiable properties that can be measured by some calibrated means and can be approximated by values, i.e. points or regions in a mathematical or conceptual space, such as natural or real numbers, RGB values etc.

An instance of E54 Dimension represents the true quantity, independent from its numerical approximation, e.g. in inches or in cm. The properties of the class E54 Dimension allow for expressing the numerical approximation of the values of an instance of E54 Dimension. If the true values belong to a non-discrete space, such as spatial distances, it is recommended to record them as approximations by intervals or regions of indeterminacy enclosing the assumed true values. For instance, a length of 5 cm may be recorded as 4.5-5.5 cm, according to the precision of the respective observation. Note, that interoperability of values described in different units depends critically on the representation as value regions.

Numerical approximations in archaic instances of E58 Measurement Unit used in historical records should be preserved. Equivalents corresponding to current knowledge should be recorded as additional instances of E54 Dimension as appropriate.


§  currency: £26.00

§  length: 3.9-4.1 cm

§  diameter 26 mm

§  weight 150 lbs

§  density: 0.85 gm/cc

§  luminescence: 56 ISO lumens

§  tin content: 0.46 %

§  taille au garot: 5 hands

§  calibrated C14 date: 2460-2720 years, etc

An instance of E54 should for instance be : "silver cup 232 height (E54)" as in P40. 

Current Proposal: 

In the 36th joined meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9 and the 29th FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting, the crm-sig discussed about the comment of the last meeting that an instance  of the dimension is NOT the unit and amount but the  actual dimension of a thing, assigned HW to GB to propose new examples by Thursday. Also it is mentioned that currently E16 Measurement can be used for measuring an instance of E1 CRM Entity BUT this is inconsistent with S4 Observation.O8 observed: S15 Observable Entity which is narrower since S4 Observation is superclass of E16 Measurement. Current definition of E16 Measurement gives unintended models. This incompatibility could be resolved by moving  S15 Observable Entity  in CIDOC CRM core. The sig assigned HW to MD, CEO, Oyvind to work on this issue. MD will make proposal. Must consider what is not observable. To be considered at next SIG

Heraklion, 1/8/2016

posted by George on 21/10/2016

Homework 293.a

Examples for Dimension

The 250 metric ton weight of the Luxor Obelisk

The 5.17 m height of the statue of David by Michaelangelo

The 530.2 carats of the Great Star of Africa diamond

The AD1262-1312, 1303-1384 calibrated C14 date for the Shroud of Turin

The 33 m diameter of the Stonehenge Sarcen Circle

The 755.9 foot length of the sides of the Great Pyramid at Giza

In the 37th joined meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9 and the 30th   FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting, the crm-sig accepted the examples provided by GB. It remain open the homework assignment of MD,CEO,Oyvind about moving S15 Observable entity to CIDOC CRM.

Berlin, December 2016

Posted by Christian Emil on 29/3/2017

Dear all,

I attach a ppt with diagrams

1)  Current situation in CRM and CRMSci​

2)  New Exx Observable Entity  in CRM moved from CRMSci

3)  New Exx Observable Entity in CRM and a possible CRMSci simplification
4)  New Exx Observable Entity – CRM adjustment
5)  Summing uo


Posted by Martin  on 29/3/2017

dear Christian-Emil,

Very nice! I only would put in slide 5 Observation between Measurement and E13,
and "measured" under "observed".

I think necessarily Measurement must be seen as a special case of Observation.

Posted by Christian Emil on 29/3/2017

It is ok. In the pure crm it is as today. When crm is extended with crmsci or when dealing with pure crmsci observation is put "in between".

Posted by Christian Emil on 30/3/2017

Here is an adjusted version with Martin's comments included.

Posted by Martin on 30/3/2017


Can you put it on a server, and send the link to the list?

Posted by Christian Emil on 30/3/2017

Dear all,


Please find my homework as a  ppt with diagrams​:

​​Main points:

1)  Current situation in CRM and CRMSci​

2)  New Exx Observable Entity  in CRM moved from CRMSci

3)  New Exx Observable Entity in CRM and a possible CRMSci simplification

4)  New Exx Observable Entity – CRM adjustment
5)  Summing up


In the 38th joined meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9 and the 31st FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting, the crm-sig decided that it is needed to study carefully which of the currently proposed classes to fall under observable entity satisfy the observability criterion (observability  implies falsifiability by empirical means). The definition of observable entity should be clarified and it should be found what is not observable. Also consistency with CRMinf should be achieved. Homework assigned to Oyvind, Steve, George, CEO

Heraklion, April 2017

Posted by martin on 3/10/2017

Dear All,

My opinion about "observable entities" is the following:

A) An observation observes a Situation, in the sense defined previously: A set of property instances holding at some time.

B) S4 Observation is a special case of Observation in CRMInf, a single property observation

C) "observable situations" should be: 1) observable relations between Observable Entities, 2) Observable qualities of Observable Entities 3) Dimensions of Observable Entities.

D) Given that, there is a constraint to the domain or range of any property instance observed to be an "Observable Entity".

Then, we can identify Events, Material Substantials and Symbolic Objects(via carrier) to be observable. Measuring water or atmospheric properties could be identified as measuring "the atmosphere" constraint to a particular place. In that case, we would need a spatiotemporal container for the Situation, not only a temporal one.

I would not like to introduce the Material Substantial into CRM"base".

We can generally declare that Observable Entities do have Dimensions, as a special case of what is observed.

Then we may engage in identifying properties with a "observable" substance, such as structural properties.


Posted by Maria Daskalaki on 5/10/2017

Dear All, 

I generally agree with Martin, 

Material Substantial has metaphysical connotations since it is diffucult to speak about the "matter" initself without the mediation  of a subject-person who observes. that is why it is better to use the term "phenomenon" and not "matter" or thing in itself. it may be the case that all the observes agree upon the "substantial Matter" of a thing but that daes not mean that we really have directly access to it.

In the 41st joined meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9 and the 34th FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting, the sig decided to change the name of this issue  to "How to determine observable entities". We will continue on this, when we will have finished the definition of  dimension (issue 347).

Lyon, May 2018

In the 43rd joint meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9; 36th FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting, narrowing down the discussion of Observable entities to their actual dimensions –the latter cast in terms of ranges –permits to model positions in time not only of static but also of dynamic (i.e. evolving) phenomena. The sig is to carry on this line of work.
HW: AK is assigned with gathering information on the ways to obtain different kinds of measurement: 
•    space
•    time
•    static things
•    continua (things like the water flow, the tide, the speed of the wind, etc.)

Heraklion, March 2019

Posted by Athina on 3/6/2019

here you may find related information   gathered from Ingeoclouds project 

In the 44th joint meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9; 37th FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting,the sig reviewed the HW by AK on measurements of observable entities. For want of more context, it was impossible to reach a decision. 
HW: AK and MD are to explain this HW to the sig (preferably over the next in-person meeting, unless they think this can be achieved through email exchange) 


Paris, June 2019

Posted by Martin, June 1st, 2021


Reworking issue 293 Homework:

(A) Scope Note of E54 Dimension in 7.1.1:

This class comprises quantifiable properties that can be measured by some calibrated means and can be approximated by values, i.e., by points or regions in a mathematical or conceptual space, such as natural or real numbers, RGB values etc.

An instance of E54 Dimension represents the empirical or theoretically derived quantity, including the precision tolerances resulting from the particular method or calculation. The identity of an instance of E54 Dimension depends on the method of its determination because each method may produce different values even when determining comparable qualities.

In short: E54 Dimensions can the the result of Measurement or Calculation (E13 or some subclass of it). More precisely, the Dimension should be direct result of a measurement, computed from multiple measurements, or a predicted value. Predicted values should be of a kind comparable to actual values, measured or computed from measured ones.

We should admit E54 Dimensions of mathematical objects I think.

(B) Kinds of Measurable Things

•    space  (related issue 388) – it seems that in some cases we measure approximations of phenomenal places in the context of an observation event. All this information falls within the time of observation events.

We can calculate positions on Earth or objects from measured quantities.

We can measure distances between physical things and spots of events.

•    time :   

Existing example in CRM: “The AD1262-1312, 1303-1384 calibrated C14 date for the Shroud of Turin”

This is a quantity of C14/C12. The temporal distance from the time of measurement is calculated.

It seems that only temporal distances can be measured directly, between two events.


•    static things (quantities/qualities of things such as height, weight, etc. , including C14.

We can count parts, characters on an inscription etc., i.e., features of type X


•    properties of continua at spots by immersive measurement (things like the water flow, salinity, the tide, the speed of the wind, etc.)= it seems that we measure properties that we observe in evolving dynamic space-time processes, and in that sense we can describe such a reality, spot-wise, to say so. Below information from different cases of measurements we have studied in

  • Signal registration by sensors, basically a distinct and structured transfer of energy in form of mechanical/ accustical oscillations, light, electromagnetic waves, tactile, thermic, particle emission etc., which can be related to a cause of known type. The general concept of “signal” causes confusion in philosoph of science.
  • More or less, all measurement is signal based or by chemical reaction. Many analytical methods are based on pattern matching of signals, but also tree-ring dating.


(C) Examples:

“case studies from InGeoCloudS - INspiredGEOdata CLOUD Services D2.2 2012;D2.3 2013”:


Scenario based on hydrogeological datasets, which refer on the measurement of the water level within a borehole. The lab keeps information about the date of the measurement, along with some characteristics as the quality of the measurement and the method, which was followed on this activity. They also keep information about the person who did the measurement and they correlate the measurement with the borehole where it took place and the intake, which was measured. In this activity different calculations take place apart from the water level, such as the water level in meters over the main sea level, the water level under terrain and the water level under the given reference point.

Further, chemical analysis, by immersed sensors or sampling.



          Network of sensors


          ShakeMap calculation output

A scenario of Seismic Recording:

The emergence of an earthquake event triggers its recording by the sensors which are located in the geophysical stations. For every such event they relate its recording with the sensor (e.g Accelerometer) which measured it.  Every recording can be multiply classified as the original shockwave recording and as the result of the evaluation over the recordings which came from the sensors (Data_Evaluation) which can be the result of filtering or other type of processing. This multiple classification leads to different related properties. Considering a recording as an original shockwave recording, the relation O17.has_dimension is used to describe the intensity value of the observation (notion Intensity) and the regression distance (notion Distance). On the other hand if we consider a recording as a derivative of the original recording we measure different features of the recording. Every recording comes from three different channels namely, HHE, HHN, HHZ. For each one of these channels the scientists are interested in the peak velocity (notion pgv), the peak acceleration (notion pga) and the spectral acceleration at 0.3, 1.0, 3.0 seconds (notions psa03, psa10, psa30). 

Seismic events are recorded by geophysical stations. For each station they keep its location (Latitude, Longitude), its name (notion Site) and they measure the shear-wave velocity between 0 and 30 meters depth (notion VS30). Each station consists of sensors, which are the recording instruments for earthquakes. Sensors have allocation, meaning a sensor belongs in a station. Each sensor has information about its communication type (analog or digital) using notion commtype and a description of the instrument type (notion insttype). The available sensors from a specific station constitute a network, which is also described.

 Xml instance describing data kept for stations and earthquake dimension:

3. LANDSLIDE INFORMATION: what is being documented and measured: Jemec Auflič, M., Jež, J., Popit, T. et al. Landslides (2017) 14: 1537.


(D) Observable Entity definition:

The Problem of defining an Observable Entity was to justify a class consisting of Material and Conceptual Objects and something representing signals in space-time, by identifying what the common nature behind those actually is that allows for observing them, which we failed to understand for years. It further caused problems trying to put all top classes into CRMbase and to keep CRMsci under them. Observation obviously is fundamental, but also a basic element of argumentation. Therefore, draft definitions where moved between CRMsci, CRMbase and CRMInf without coming to a conclusion. In particular, the concept of measuring immaterial objects via unnamed representatives further obscured the nature of an observable. This has been resolved now in version 7.1.1 .


More solidly, I now believe

  • we have to regard all things and environments capable of sending signals or mechanically or chemically interacting with a measurement device, sensor, senses or probe.
  • These should be material substantials, but observation occurs in spacetime and is temporary itself and about temporary phenomena, relatively persistent properties being just a special, case, not well-distiguished from temporary ones.
  • Therefore we have to include material processes that interact with measurement devices or leave sensory impressions in a person, not to talk about processes materially affecting a human being. It appears that E5 Event is the nearest class for that, even though E5 Event includes mental processes, which may slightly overstretch the idea of observability, except for self-observation.
  • I am hesitant to consider E4 Period, once the observation of a Period as a whole is rather bound to series of indicative events, but may be the distinction is not practical in all cases. To be discussed.


(E) About the Immediacy of Observation (in reference to issues 531, 388)

In all philosophy of science, at least since Kant, there is the clear distinction between the physical interaction in the sensory organ or instrument, the mediating instrument such as a microscope or telescope, and the physical process at the source we intend to observe. 

More current philosophical theories, such as by James Ladyman and others, reject the former distinction that observables are only things that can be recognized by human unaided senses, and regard adequate devices as equivalent. In the CRM, we defend the latter position. Ladyman stresses that the assessment of the reality of an observation by instrument is more reliable when its design (and the experience with it) is not made and restricted to recognize the claimed observation only, such as yardsticks, microscopes, Voltmeters, Oscilloscopes etc.

Nevertheless, we have to consider the spatial distance between the source and the sensor, the temporal delay between sensing and reading (observing) the sensor itself, the evaluation of the sensory data following the hypothesis of the instruments operation and the interpretation of the process causing the signal or reaction.

Consider looking at a distant galaxy versus at a bird through a telescope. Consider seeing a lightning versus a supernova through a telescope. Consider reception and evaluation of a seismic signal, isolating an event and identifying it with other signals of the network. Consider traces partly molten ceramics in an archaeological excavation (indicating a temperature) versus ceramics cones made for temperature measuring by their partial melting.

Obviously, there are good reasons to include in an instance of observation or measurement the whole reasoning chain until the cause of the signal, e.g., a rare bird flying by, and in other cases to split the activity into source, signal, signal reception, signal recognition and overall interpretation. The reasons may depend on the immediacy of observation and the confidence in the method to detect the observed kind of cause for the signal. Our models should be able to represent both views in a monotonic way. For instance, observing a chemical reaction can be regarded as part of observing/measuring a concentration of a pollutant.

The following is an example of for including in the meaning of a particular kind of measurement the standard evaluation procedure to a result that, in the narrower sense, is not of observable kind, i.e., position measurement. From this, I propose to create a more general class of measurement and observation, which includes spatiotemporal relations between objects and events, and counting.


Upon close inspection, the CRM editorial board decided to merge issue 293 with issue 531, as they cover the same subject. Discussions on Observable Entities will continue under issue 531. 


Issue closed

June 3rd, 2021