Techniques and methods for computing, estimating, or placing bounds on the errors of expressions (formulas) based on knowledge of error distributions, error intervals or bounds of variables and parameters entering those expressions, and of methods used in the computations.

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38
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8answers
7k views

Why does the speed of light in vacuum have no uncertainty?

I could understand that the definition of a second wouldn't have an uncertainty when related to the transition of the Cs atom, so it doesn't have an error because it's an absolute reference and we ...
13
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3answers
614 views

What limitations are there in measuring physical properties accurately?

In a StackOverflow answer, I attempted to explain why a 32-bit float was perfectly adequate for representing the questioner's weight measurement: Physical properties are inaccurately measured ...
10
votes
10answers
355 views

Could one measure a stick to an arbitrary precision by having its length estimated by enough people?

I remember reading somewhere that the problem of exact time-keeping on ships could have been solved a lot earlier than it was if somebody would have had the idea of keeping time with a whole array of ...
9
votes
3answers
5k views

How to combine measurement error with statistic error

We have to measure a period of an oscillation. We are to take the time it takes for 50 oscillations multiple times. I know that I will have a $\Delta t = 0.1 \, \mathrm s$ because of my reaction ...
8
votes
3answers
125 views

Correct expression for experimental data

I am doing practices at the laboratory. I have some doubts about how to express correctly the errors; I read some pdfs in Google but I can't solve these questions: Sometimes, it's correct to write ...
7
votes
2answers
8k views

The error of the natural logarithm

Can anyone explain why the error for $\ln (x)$ (where for $x$ we have $x\pm\Delta x$) is simply said to be $\frac{\Delta x}{x}$? I would very much appreciate a somewhat rigorous rationalization of ...
6
votes
5answers
798 views

Number of significant figures

I am looking for an intuitive answer that will explain me why there are only two significant figures in say the number 1500. Also definition from wikipedia: The significant figures of a number ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Multiple measurements of the same quantity - combining uncertainties

I have a number of measurements of the same quantity (in this case, the speed of sound in a material). Each of these measurements has their own uncertainty. $$ v_{1} \pm \Delta v_{1} $$ $$ v_{2} \pm ...
5
votes
2answers
355 views

Why propagation of uncertainty is linear?

I'm in doubt with one thing: let's imagine that we have $n+1$ quantities, $n$ of them being directly measured, and the other one being related to the first $n$ by a function $f : \mathbb{R}^n \to ...
5
votes
5answers
488 views

The approximate uncertainty in $r$

The volume of a cylinder is given by the expression $V=\pi r^2 h$ The uncertainties for $V$ and $h$ are as shown below $\begin{align} V&\pm 7\%\\ h&\pm 3\% \end{align}$ What is the ...
5
votes
3answers
362 views

Calculating the uncertainty of $r$, when $1/r^2$ is used

I have tried to search through the forums and the Internet, however I haven't been able to find a source I was able to understand fully. I have a distance $r$, with an uncertainty of $\mathrm{±\ ...
5
votes
2answers
248 views

Does a large uncertainty in a given value justify a large uncertainty in the result?

I'm working on a pre-lab for my Physics 1 lab session, and I had a debate with the person I carpool with (who is taking the algebra-based Physics 1 lab). We seem to be unsure about uncertainties, and ...
5
votes
2answers
135 views

Why is propagation of uncertainties quadratic rather than linear? [duplicate]

1) Up until now, during practical work sessions, I always used these formulas for uncertainty propagation: if $C = A+B$ or $C = A-B$ $$\Delta C = \Delta A + \Delta B$$ if $C = AB$ or $C = ...
5
votes
1answer
186 views

Age of the universe and age of stars

The age of the universe is 13.798±0.037 billion years, yet the age of HD 140283 is 14.46±0.8 billion years, how this can be the case?
4
votes
5answers
519 views

Why do the errors in a formula depend on how it's written?

Let there be an equation, let's say $V=IR$. Now when we write its error formula we write it as $$\frac{\Delta V}{V} = \frac{\Delta I}{I} + \frac{\Delta R}{R}.$$ Now let us take example values. For ...
4
votes
2answers
359 views

Physical experiments - False positives

How is it made sure that something has been discovered, and not just noise? Is one discovery of something that is predicted considered to be enough (Higgs-particle)? What are the probabilities of a ...
4
votes
2answers
3k views

Do you round off insignificant digits in the middle of a calculation?

I have a question... Do you round with significant digits during each subcalculation of a problem or only when the entire problem is complete? Example: multiply the following number: $$1.8 \times ...
4
votes
1answer
296 views

How do I calculate the experimental uncertainty in a function of two measured quantities

I am performing an experiment where I'm measuring two variables, say $x$ and $y$, but I'm actually interested in a third variable which I calculate from those two, $$z=f(x,y).$$ In my experiment, of ...
4
votes
1answer
736 views

Propagation of uncertainty when integrating or differentiating

Lets say I have a polynomial $ax^4 +bx^3 +cx^2 +dx +e$ and the uncertainties on each coefficient. Now I need to calculate the tangent at some points as well as some areas under this curve. How would I ...
4
votes
2answers
4k views

Wheatstone bridge galvanometer error

We had to measure the resistance of $R_x$, we balanced the Wheatstone bridge and did calculations. My question is: we didn't include galvanometer error into calculations. Why is that? I read that it's ...
3
votes
3answers
549 views

Calculating uncertainties for a final result

Say you are dividing 2 times with uncertainties: $$\frac{t_1}{t_2} ~=~ \frac{0.551s \pm 0.002s}{ 0.712s \pm 0.002s}.$$ After doing the calculations you get: $$\frac{t_1}{t_2} ~=~ 0.774 \pm ...
3
votes
3answers
489 views

Accuracy and Error of Atomic Clocks

I'm quoting a passage from my notes: The development of clocks based on atomic oscillations allowed measures of timing with accuracy on the order of $1$ part in $10^{14}$, corresponding to errors ...
3
votes
2answers
6k views

How to combine the error of two independent measurements of the same quantity?

I have measured $k_1$ and $k_2$ in two measurements and then I calculated $\Delta k_1$ and $\Delta k_2$. Now I want to calculate $k$ and $\Delta k$. $k$ is just the mean of $k_1$ and $k_2$. I thought ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

Calculating uncertainty in the final result (combining uncertainties)

I'm struggling to determine the uncertainty in $F$ so it would match the textbook answer. The problem statement is: A force F is obtained using the equation: $F = \frac{mv^2}{2\pi(x_2 - x_1)}$. The ...
3
votes
1answer
765 views

Is $\sigma$ or $\sigma / \sqrt{N}$ is error of a measurement?

I wonder whether $\sigma$ or $\sigma / \sqrt{N}$ is error of a measurement. When I measure, say $0, 1, -1, 1, -1$, I have a $\sigma = 1$. I just measure $0, 1, -1$, I also have $\sigma = 1$. But in ...
3
votes
2answers
365 views

Question about uncertainty

Are $3.43\pm 0.04$ $\frac{\mathrm{m}}{\mathrm{s}}$ and $3.48$ $\frac{\mathrm{m}}{\mathrm{s}}$ within expected range of values? The answer is yes, but I do not clearly see why this is so. I appreciate ...
3
votes
2answers
262 views

Significant figures vs. absolute error

On NIST Avogadro's Number, $N_A = 6.022\;141\;29 \times 10^{23} \text{ mol}^{-1}$ has 9 significant figures and a standard uncertainty of $0.000\;000\;27 \times 10^{23} \text{ mol}^{-1}$. First, can ...
3
votes
2answers
6k views

Definition of Significant Figures

In my textbooks, significant figures are defined as: “Significant figures by definition are the reliable digits in a number that are known with certainty.” “A significant figure is the one ...
3
votes
1answer
890 views

Calculating Expected Systematic Error in a Pendulum Experiment

I am a little confused by part c of problem 4.28 of Taylor's Introduction to Error Analysis book. A student measures the acceleration due to gravity by using a steel ball suspended by a light string. ...
3
votes
1answer
28 views

Scale Factor on Error

I was gathering some data from the particle data group website and for many results it gives a value, an uncertainty and then a scale factor for the uncertainty. For instance, at here, where it gives ...
3
votes
1answer
143 views

error propagation with different plus and min errors and data fitting

I am refreshing my memory on error propagation and data fitting (Levenberg-Marquadt). You have the absolute (measurement) error, the relative (measurement) error, the population/sample standard ...
3
votes
1answer
169 views

Combining uncertainties - multiple measurements

I am trying to understand how to combine uncertainties when they are dependent and independent from each other. Using this formula : $$\delta z = \sqrt {\Biggl(\dfrac{\partial f}{\partial x} \delta ...
3
votes
1answer
201 views

Notations for statistical / systematic / numeric errors?

I constantly see the notation $$ 5.143(13) $$ for specifying that a value was measures / calculated to be 5.143 with an estimated error of 0.013. I have come to wonder though, just how commonly ...
3
votes
0answers
163 views

Production vs. Collection, and Contaminants vs. Depositions, what might be missing in cold fusion research

I though cold fusion and LENR were discredited, but just a few days ago I found out that NASA is claiming LENR is real. So I thought if they're detecting something, what could it be, and why wasn't it ...
3
votes
1answer
138 views

Is this the correct way to I combine multiple interdependant pressure readings?

I want to measure the density in different layers of a suspension. To do this I want to place pressure sensors at different heights. Let's assume that the sensors are not by orders of magnitude more ...
2
votes
2answers
181 views

Physics Standard Deviation

I am a physics enthusiast and I have a question: Why is it meaningless to express the '$\pm$' (standard deviation) value as a percentage?
2
votes
2answers
2k views

When do I apply Significant figures in physics calculations?

I'm a little confused as to when to use significant figures for my physics class. For example, I'm asked to find the average speed of a race car that travels around a circular track with a radius of ...
2
votes
5answers
107 views

Addition according to significant digits

I have been studying about significant digits and addition rules and I can't quite digest the rules of addition completely. It states that in the answer number of decimal places will be equal to the ...
2
votes
2answers
155 views

error propagation with an integral

My question here is about how to determine the error of an integral given individual uncertainties in two parameters defining the function being integrated. I used a curve fitting function to ...
2
votes
3answers
6k views

Wheatstone Bridge

Why is using a Wheatstone bridge such an accurate way of calculating an unknown resistance? What are the benefits of using it over Ohm's law? It seems that it has something to do with the wires ...
2
votes
4answers
58 views

Is there a maximum accuracy for positions in the universe?

I was thinking how, since an object in our universe can move from one position to another, it must have passed through all the positions between those two positions. (I am thinking it moved it a ...
2
votes
2answers
135 views

How should I quote errors when measurements are asymetrically clustered?

Suppose five people measure the length of a stick and report the following values 4.90cm 4.92cm 4.93cm 4.94cm 4.94cm In high school science we are told that in ...
2
votes
2answers
400 views

Asymmetric uncertainties

Inspired by these two question on tex.SX Asymmetrical tolerancing Asymmetric uncertainties with siunitx package I'd like to ask for a nice explanation for these kind of uncertainties, like ...
2
votes
2answers
79 views

Significant figure rules [duplicate]

In a simple physics experiment, we take the average a few readings to reduce the random errors. I apply significant figure rules to these. Say we round off at each step: (8.0+9.0+10.0)/3 = 27.0/3 ...
2
votes
1answer
202 views

Combination of errors question [closed]

A resistance R is in series with an inductance L. At angular frequency ω the magnitude of the complex impedance Z of this combination is given by |Z|^2 = R^2 + (ωL)^2 . Find |Z|, and the error in |Z|, ...
2
votes
1answer
50 views

Energy resolution of LHC Electromagnetic Calorimeter

So I am trying to get an estimate of the electromagnetic calorimeter resolution at LHCb, and I have found this online: But I have no idea of what it means. Can anyone explain what the last part ...
2
votes
1answer
155 views

How do we find the accuracy of atomic clocks?

We say that atomic clocks are the most accurate clocks ever made, they may lose or gain $x$ seconds in $y$ years. How do we find this uncertainty because we do not have an ideal clock to compare with ...
2
votes
2answers
400 views

What's the difference between average absolute error and relative error?

I am quite confused by both these terms. I would like to know what's the exact difference between both these terms and which one is more accurate.
2
votes
1answer
177 views

How to quote answer when error is smaller than significant figures of data?

We have these rules: Can't quote answer to more significant figures than original data. Error quoted to one significant figure unless first significant digit is a one. In which case quote error to 2 ...
2
votes
1answer
119 views

What are anticipated events and experimental uncertainty?

I am working on this lab that involved gathering data from two different sources. It involved gathering reaction times from a device and from a web application which was put into our data sets. It is ...