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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Uncertainty and how to process it!

In physics all quantity that is measured come with its uncertainty. This is because the instrument, the experiment or the person performing the measurement is subjected to some limitations.

For example

  1. Someone that is measuring a length with a metre rule cannot measure the length to a precision that is better than one mm. So a length that is measured with a metre rule will have an uncertainty of +-o.1 c m.
  2. The limitation can either be due to the experiment itself, the apparatus,  or the experimenter.  Someone measuring the height of rebound will measure it with an uncertainty of +- 0.5 cm. Someone estimating the mass of an object can measure it with an uncertainty of +-0.5 kg. A voltmeter will give a reading with a percentage uncertainty of 1%.

[As you may have guess from 2 above not all measurements that are performed will have these uncertainty. These are for example only.]

As you can see all quantities that are measured will have uncertainties. And as a result any other quantities that are derived from the measured quantities will have their uncertainties.

We are going to see how to determine the uncertainty when the following operations are performed.

  1. Addition and subtraction
  2. multiplication and division
  3. power, square root, square, etc
  4. Other operations using the extreme-value method (under construction)

To know how to determine the uncertainty when addition and subtraction is performed see the next part of this series.

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