# Dealing with uncertainty in calculations - example calculation of coin density Say you measured a 10 cent coin’s diameter with

the venier callipers and found its diameter to be 23.58mm.
Diameter = 23.58 ± 0.01mm (It is ± 0.01mm as the smallest scale division (the limit of reading) on the vernier callipers is 0.02mm)

The radius is therefore ½ this.

r = 11.79 ± 0.005mm
The height of the coin was measured with a micrometer screw gauge (which has a smallest scale division of 0.01mm).

h = 2.12 ± 0.005mm

Volume = Area of base x height and Area = πr2 x h, so:
Volume = π(11.79 ± 0.005)2 x 2.12 ± 0.005mm

Convert the absolute uncertainties to the relative (percentage) uncertainties so they can be added together:

V = π(11.79mm ± 0.04241%)2 x 2.12mm ± 0.23585%
= 925.79183 mm3 ± 0.32067 %

Convert the mm3 to cm3 (the unit for density is g/cm3) V = 0. 92579183 cm3 ± 0.32067 %

The mass of the coin was measured to be 5.696 ± 0.0005g (smallest scale division was 0.001g)

Convert the absolute uncertainty of the mass to its relative (percentage) uncertainty so it can be added to relative uncertainty of the volume.

= 6.1525710375 g/cm3 ± 0.32944809 %

Convert the relative uncertainty back to an absolute
= 6.1525710375 ± 0.0202695278 g/cm3

Rounding off the answer and the uncertainty
Note this with respect to rounding (adapted from Bell, S. (2001). Measurement Good Practice Guide - A Beginner's Guide to Uncertainty of Measurement (Issue 2 ed.). Teddington, Middlesex, United Kingdom: Centre for Basic, Thermal and Length Metrology - National Physical Laboratory.): Calculators and spreadsheets can give an answer to many decimal places. There are some recommended practices for rounding the results: Rounding of values should be carried out only at the end of the calculation, to avoid rounding errors. For example, if 2.346 is rounded up to 2.35 at an early stage in a calculation, it could later be rounded up to 2.4. But if 2.346 is used throughout a calculation it would be correctly rounded to 2.3 at the final stage. Although results are finally rounded either up or down, depending on which is the nearest figure, the rule for rounding uncertainties is different. The final uncertainty is rounded up to the next largest figure, not down.