Mistake
This is the misreading of a scale or faulty equipment.
Suspect results
These are results that lie well outside the normal range e.g. points well away from a line or curve of best fit. They often arise from mistakes in measurement. These should be recordedand reason for discarding noted by the candidate.
How is the uncertainty in the measurement of a quantity estimated?1.Estimation of uncertainty using the spread of repeat readings.
Suppose the value a quantity
x
is measured several times and a series of differentvalues obtained:
x
1
,
x
2
,
x
3
……..
x
n
. [Normally, in our work,
n
will be a small number, say 3 or 5].Unless there is reason to suspect that one of the results is seriously out [i.e. it isanomalous], the best estimate of the true value of
x
is the arithmetic mean of thereadings:Mean value
1 2
........
n
x x x xn
+ +=
A reasonable estimate of the uncertainty is ½ the range:i.e.
maxmin
2
x xu
−=
, where
max
x
is the maximum and
min
x
the minimum reading of
x
[ignoring any anomalous readings]
Example
The following results were obtained for the time it took for an object to roll down aslope.4.5 s, 4.8 s, 4.6 s, 5.1 s, 5.0 sThe best estimate of the true time is given by the mean which is:4.54.84.65.15.04.8s5
t
+ + + += =
The uncertainty,
u
, is given by:5.14.50.3s2
u
−= =
The final answer and uncertainty should be quoted, with units, to the same no. of decimal places and the uncertainty to 1 sig. figi.e.
t
= 4.8 ± 0.3 s Note that, even if the initial results had be taken to the nearest 0.01 s, i.e. theresolution of an electronic stopwatch, the final result would still be given to 0.1 s because the first significant figure in the uncertainty is in the first place after thedecimal point.The percentage uncertainty,
p
0.3100%6%4.8
= × =
. Again,
p
is only expressed to 1 s.f.