ErrorAnalysis - Error Analysis and Significant Figures(from...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Error Analysis and Significant Figures (from http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/%7Elabgroup/pdf/Error_analysis.pdf) No measurement of a physical quantity can be entirely accurate. It is important to know, therefore, just how much the measured value is likely to deviate from the unknown, true, value of the quantity. The art of estimating these deviations should probably be called uncertainty analysis, but for historical reasons is referred to as error analysis. This document contains brief discussions about how errors are reported, the kinds of errors that can occur, how to estimate random errors, and how to carry error estimates into calculated results. SIGNIFICANT FIGURES Whenever you make a measurement, the number of meaningful digits that you write down implies the error in the measurement. For example if you say that the length of an object is 0.428 m, you imply an uncertainty of about 0.001 m. To record this measurement as either 0.4 or 0.42819667 would imply that you only know it to 0.1 m in the first case or to 0.00000001 m in the second. You should only report as many significant figures as are consistent with the estimated error. The quantity 0.428 m is said to have three significant figures, that is, three digits that make sense in terms of the measurement. Notice that this has nothing to do with the "number of decimal places". The same measurement in centimeters would be 42.8 cm and still be a three significant figure number. The accepted convention is that only one uncertain digit is to be reported for a measurement. In the example if the estimated error is 0.02 m you would report a result of 0.43 ± 0.02 m, not 0.428 ± 0.02 m. ABSOLUTE AND RELATIVE ERRORS The absolute error in a measured quantity is the uncertainty in the quantity and has the same units as the quantity itself. For example if you know a length is 0.428 m ± 0.002 m, the 0.002 m is an absolute error. The relative error (also called the fractional error) is obtained by dividing the absolute error in the quantity by the quantity itself. The relative error is usually more significant than the absolute error. For example a 1 mm error in the diameter of a skate wheel is probably more serious than a 1 mm error in a truck tire. Note that relative errors are dimensionless. When reporting relative errors it is usual to multiply the fractional error by 100 and report it as a percentage. SYSTEMATIC ERRORS Systematic errors arise from a flaw in the measurement scheme which is repeated each time a measurement is made. If you do the same thing wrong each time you make the measurement, your measurement will differ systematically (that is, in the same direction each time) from the correct result. Some sources of systematic error are: • Errors in the calibration of the measuring instruments.
Image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern