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iePhysics

Introduction
SummaryandPracticeApplicationsofFundamental
Skills
byWilliamDietsch2003

generalremarks:

Physicsisthescience,whichaddressestheinteractionbetweenmatterandenergy.Physicsisthe
science,whichattemptstoexplainallofthefundamentaltruthsoftheobservableuniverse.The
preferredlanguageofphysicsismathematics.Aphysicistattemptstoexplainandasmuchaspossible
predictphysicalphenomenabyincorporatingquantitativeinformationintomathematicalrelationships
calledequations.Soyoushoulddevelopyourquantitativeskillstothefullestextentofyourabilities.

Arguably,allofsciencecanbeconsideredbranchesofphysics,howeverwewillbekindtobiologists,
chemists,meteorologists,andothersandletthemthinkthattheyarepursuingseparateacademic
disciplines.

Theultimategoalofphysicsistofindanddevelopanexplanationoftheentireuniverseandhopefully
expressitasanequationthatwillfitonaTshirt.

measurement:

Measurementistheprocessbywhichpeopleexpressquantitativelytoeachotheraspectsofthe
observableuniverse.Inordertoengageintheprocessofmeasurementacommonstandardof
measuremustbeused.Ancientmeasurementsystemsusedobjectsorpartsofthehumanbodyfor
standards.

Themetricsystem(i.e.,SystemInternational)isusedbythescientificcommunityforthe
measurementofphysicalquantity.

Themetricsystemusessevenfundamentalunits(seethechartbelow)tomeasureallaspectsofthephysical
world.

Allofthefundamentalunitsareconceptualunits(unitsbasedonrepeatablephysicalphenomenasuchasthe
wavelengthoflightetc.)exceptmass.Massisstillbasedonastandardkilogrammasskeptinthe
InternationalBureauofWeightsandMeasuresinFrance.

FundamentalUnitsInTheMetricSystem
PhysicalQuantity SymbolUsedInEquations UnitOfMeasure UnitSymbol

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length L meter m

mass M kilogram kg

time T second s

electriccharge Q coulomb Coul

temperature T degreeKelvin K

amountofsubstance (none) mole mol

luminousintensity I candela cd

Fundamentalunitscanbecombinedtoformderivedunits.Forexample:speedistherateatwhicha
movingbodycoversground.Thederivedunitusedforspeedthereforeisthemeterpersecond(m/s).
Thisunitisacombinationofthefundamentalunitsforlengthofdistance(meters)andforelapsedtime
(seconds).

Unitsinthemetricsystemaremodifiedbyprefixeswhichindicatetheorderofmagnitudeofthebase
unit.Anexampleiscentiwhichstandsfor1/100ofthebaseunit.Onecentimeterrepresents1/100ofa
meter.

SignificantDigits:

Significantdigitsinanexperimentalmeasurementareallthenumbersthatcanbereaddirectlyfromthe
instrumentscale(knownwithcertainty)plusoneestimated(doubtful)number.

ReadingTheNumberOfSignificantDigitsInAMeasurement:
Rule Example

1.345Kghas4significant
Allnonzerodigitsaresignificant.
digits

220005Kmhas6
Allzerosbetweennonzerodigitsaresignificant
significantdigits

Zerostotherightofanonzerodigitbuttotheleftofanunderstood 230000ghas2significant
decimalarenotsignificant. digits

Zerostotherightofthedecimalbuttotheleftofanonzerodigitare 0.0000345mhas3
notsignificant significantdigits

Zerostotherightofthedecimalfollowinganonzerodigitare 0.10070cmhas5
significant. significantdigits

MultiplicationAndDivisionUsingSignificantDigits:

Inthemultiplicationordivisionoftwoormorenumericalmeasurements,thenumberofsignificant
digitsintheanswercanbenogreaterthantheleastsignificantdigitsinanynumberintheset.
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1.Determinethenumberofsignificantdigitsineachofthenumbersintheproblem.
2.Performthemultiplicationordivision.
3.Roundtheanswertotheleastnumberofsignificantdigitsdeterminedbystepone.

AdditionAndSubtractionUsingSignificantDigits:

Inadditionandsubtraction,addingorsubtractionbeginswiththefirstcolumnfromtheleftthatcontains
anuncertainordoubtfulfigure.

1.Underlinethefirstdoubtfuldigitineachofthenumbersintheset(thisistherightmostsignificant
digit).
2.Addorsubtractthenumbers.
3.Roundthesumordifferencetotheleftmostunderlinedplace(doubtfulfigure).

Accuracy:

Theclosenessofaresulttoitsacceptedvalueistheaccuracyoftheresult.Thatwhichdetrimentally
affectsaccuracyiscallederror.Therearethreesourcesofexperimentalerror.

Humanerrorsometimescalledpersonalerrorarisesfrompersonalbiasorcarelessnessinreadingan
instrument,inrecordingdata,orincalculations.

Systematicerrorisassociatedwithequipmentproblemssuchasanimproperlyzeroedinstrumentor
anincorrectlycalibrateddevice.

Randomerrorresultsfromunknownandunpredictedvariationsinexperimentalconditions.Random
errorsareoftenbeyondthecontroloftheexperimenter.Voltagespikes,vibrations,andtemperature
fluctuationsareallexamplesofthecausesofrandomerror.

RepresentationOfTheAccuracyOfAResult:

Absoluteerror(Ea)isthenumericaldifferencebetweentheacceptedvalueforaresultandtheactual
experimentalvalue.Equation:Ea=ExperimentalvalueAcceptedvalue.

Relativeerror(Er)isamoremeaningfulrepresentationoferrorinanexperimentalsetting.Therelative
errorrepresentsthefractionalerror.Youmayhavecalledthisfractionalerrorpercenterror.Equation:
Er=(Ea/Accepted)(100%).(Butbothabsoluteandrelativeerrorpresumeyouhaveawaytoknowthetrueor
acceptedvalue.Oftenthisisunavailabletoscientistsuntilmeasurementshavebeenperformedmanytimesusingavariety
ofprocedures.)

Precision:

Precisionisameasureofthereliabilityofaresult.Itismeasuredbyhowclosethemeasurementagrees
withothermeasurementstakeninthesameway.Poorprecisionscattersresultsandmakesforan
unreliablesetofdata.

RepresentationOfThePrecisionOfData:

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Meanoraveragecanbecomputedforasetofdatabyusingthisequation:
Xmean=(X1+X2+X3...XN)/NwhereX1,X2,etc.arethedatapoints.Nisthenumberofdata
pointsinthedataset.

Percentdifferenceisasimplewaytoshowagreementamongdata.

1.Findthemeanofthedata.
2.Findthedifferencebetweenthetwodatapoints.Ifthereisasetofdatafindthedifference
betweenthebiggestandsmallestvalues(theextremevaluesinaset).
3.Dividethedifferencebythemeanandmultiplyby100%.
Equationforthis:(X2X1/mean)(100%)or(XmaxXmin/mean)(100%).

Absolutedeviationrepresentstheabsolutevalueofthedifferencebetweenadatapointandthemeanof
thedata.Equation:a=Xmean.

Meanabsolutedeviationrepresentsthemeanoraverageoftheabsolutedeviationsofasetofdata.
Whenreportingtheresultofanexperiment,theresultmaybeexpressedas:Meanofthedatamean
absolutedeviation.Example:1232cm.

Relativedeviationrepresentsthefractionaldeviationforasetofdata.Tofindtherelativedeviationuse
thefollowingequation:(meanabsolutedeviation/meanofthedata)(100%).Whenreportingthe
resultofanexperiment,theresultmaybeexpressedas:Meanofthedatarelativedeviation.Example:
123cm0.5%.

GraphicalRepresentationOfData:

Itisoftenconvenienttorepresentexperimentaldataingraphicalformforthepurposesofreportingand
obtaininginformation(suchasslopes).

QuantitiesarecommonlyplottedonCartesiangraphgridsinwhichthehorizontal(X)iscalledthe
abscissaandthevertical(Y)iscalledtheordinate.

GraphingProcedure:

1.Determinetherangeofdataandchoosescalesthatareeasytoreadandplot.Scaleswhicharetoo
smallwill"bunchup"thedataandmakethegraphunreadable.Choosescalessothatthemajor
portionofthegraphpaperwillbeused.
2.Labeleachaxiswiththenameofthequantityplotted(mass,time,velocity,etc.).
3.Indicatetheunitsforthequantityinparenthesis(Kg),(s),(m/s),etc.
4.Whenplottingtheindividualdatapoints,locatethemasexactlyaspossiblewithintheparameters
ofthescale.
5.Whenallofthedatapointsareplotted,drawasmoothlineconnectingthepoints."Smooth"
suggeststhatthelinedoesnothavetopassexactlythrougheachpointbutconnectsthegeneral
areasofsignificanceofthedatapoints.
6.Titlethegraph.ThetitleiscommonlylistedastheYquantityversustheXquantity.Example:
Distancevs.Time.
7.Putyourname,dateonthegraph.

Whentwoquantitiesaredirectlyrelatedthegraphyieldsastraightline.Thesequantitiesare
consideredtohavealinearrelationship.Thegeneralequationis(Y=mX+b)

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Theslopeofthelineisusefulinmanyphysicsapplications.TheslopeisfoundbydividingtheRise(Y)
bytheRun(X).TheunitusedfortheslopeisdeterminedbytheXandYunits.Example:Xrepresents
time(s)andYrepresentsdistance(m),thiswouldyieldaslopewhichhastheunitm/s.

Ifonequantityincreasesproportionallyastheotherdecreases,aninverserelationshipispresent.The
graphofaninversesrelationshipisahyperbola.Thegeneralequationis(X)(Y)=k.

Ifonequantityincreasesasthesquareoftheotherthenaquadraticrelationshipispresent.The
resultinggraphisaparabola.ThegeneralequationisY=kX2.

ProblemsInDataAnalysisAndGraphing
1.Findtheabsoluteandrelativeerrorinaexperimentwhichyieldsaresultof90.78Unitsandhasan
acceptedvalueof88.00Units.

2.Anexperimentisperformedtofindthedensityofasubstancewhichhasanacceptedvalueof1.23
g/cm3.Themassofthetestobjectis239g.andthevolumeismeasuredas190cm3.Compute
theexperimentaldensityandtherelativeerroroftheresult.

3.Awirewithacrosssectionalareaof3.55X105m2isbrokenbyaforceof2340N.Theaccepted
valueforthetensilestrengthofthematerialis6.60X107N/m2.Computetheexperimental
tensilestrengthandtherelativeerroroftheexperiment.

4.Anexperimentisconductedtwiceyielding23.44Unitsand24.05Units.Computethemeanand
thepercentdifferenceforthissetofdata.

5.Anexperimentisperformedeighttimesyieldingresultsof34.40,34.80,33.99,34.00,34.68,
34.05,33.98,and34.55Unitsrespectively.Computethemeanandthepercentdifferenceforthis
setofdata.Useatablesuchastheonebelow:
TRIAL DATA(UNITS) a(UNITS)
1 32.56
2 32.55
3 31.98
4 32.01
5 32.48
6 33.00
7 32.85
8 32.56
mean

Fortheabovedatacomputethemean,absolutedeviationforeachtrialandtherelativedeviation
fortheexperiment.Completethechartandreporttheexperimentalresultsusingthemean
absolutedeviationandtherelativedeviation.

6.Graphthefollowingsetsofdataongraphpaper.
MASS(Kg) WEIGHT(N)

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2.2 21.5
2.5 24.5
2.8 27.6
3.0 29.4
3.1 30.4
3.2 31.3
3.4 33.3
3.6 35.2
3.8 37.2
4.0 39.2

7.Describe,inwords,therelationshipshownbetweenmassandweightasshownonthegraph.

8.Computetheslopeofthelineinthisgraph.
VOL.(cm3) MASS(g)
10.0 7.9
20.0 15.8
30.0 23.7
40.0 31.6
50.0 39.6

9.Describetheresultingcurve.

10.Writeanequationrelatingvolumetomass.

11.Computetheslopeofthegraph.Whatisthenamegiventothisquantity?
MASS(Kg) ACCEL.(m/s2)
1.0 12.0
2.0 5.9
3.0 4.1
4.0 3.0
5.0 2.5
6.0 2.0

12.Describetheresultingcurve.
13.Writeanequationdescribingtherelationshipofmasstoacceleration.
FORCE(N) ACCEL.(m/s2)
5.0 4.9
10.0 9.8

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15.0 15.2
20.0 20.1
25.0 25.0
30.0 29.9

14.Describe,inwords,therelationshipshownbetweenforceandaccelerationasshownonthegraph.

15.Writeanequationwhichshowstherelationship.
Volume Mass(kg)
(cm3) Aluminum Water Wood
10 27 10 6
20 54 20 12
30 81 30 18
40 108 40 24
50 135 50 30
60 162 60 36
70 189 70 42
80 216 80 48
90 243 90 54
100 270 100 60

16.Plottheabovedataonthesamegraph.Usedifferentcolorsorsymbolstoindicatethematerials.
Besuretoincludeakeyonthegraphtoidentifythethreeresultinglines.

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createdand2003byWilliamDietsch
edited&posted1April2007byDTrapp

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