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Error Analysis

A measurement is not meaningful without an estimation of error.

The accuracy and precision of an experiment is subject to the Apparatus used Skill of the experimenter Basic physics involved and the experimental method involved

Error Analysis
Typical errors one encounters in the lab
Systematic errors Random errors: Single /multiple measurment Significant figures Propagation of errors Linear fit to a set of data points

Systematic Error
Result from mis-calibrated device.
They are reproducible inaccuracies that are consistently in the same direction. Systematic errors are difficult to assess, because often we dont really understand their source . One way to estimate the systematic error is to try a different method for the same measurement

Examples of systematic errors

Errors in measurements of temperature due to poor thermal contact between the thermometer and the substance whose temperature is to be found The cloth tape measure that you use to measure the length of an object had been stretched out from years of use.
The volmeter scale you use reads 0.05 V too high for all your measurements.

Random errors
Random errors in experimental measurements are caused by unknown and unpredictable changes in the experiment. These changes may occur in the measuring instruments or in the environmental conditions.
Examples of causes of random errors are: electronic noise in the circuit of an electrical instrument,

irregular changes in the heat loss rate from a solar collector due to changes in the wind.
Simple pendulum, variation in T

Determining Random Errors: if you do just 1 measurement of a quantity of interest

Least count is the smallest division that is marked on the instrument

For single slit a~D/x and the error is a/a = | D/D | + | / |+ |x/x| Here for D and x Use Least count of the instrument.

Determining Random Errors: if you do multiple measurements of a quantity of interest

Take more data. Random errors can be evaluated through statistical analysis and can be reduced by averaging over a large number of observations. Most random errors have a Gaussian distribution ( also called normal distribution)

Fig. 1. The Gaussian normal distribution. = mean of measurements. = standard deviation of measurements. 68% of the measurements lie in the interval - < x < + ; 95% lie within - 2 < x < + 2; and 99.7% lie within - 3 < x < + 3.

Average, Average deviation and Standard deviation

Standard Deviation

Accuracy and Precision

Accuracy of a measurement is how close the measurement is to the true value of the quantity being measured. The precision of a measurement is how close a number of measurements of the same quantity agree with each other. Eg. If g value is 9.80 0.01, and g=9.789 0.001, the first one is the more accurate value as it is closer to the accepted value of g. And the second is more precise.

Propagation of Errors
When measurements are used to calculate a result, the accuracy of the result is limited by the propagation of errors through the calculation. These errors arise from: errors in the original measurements, round-off errors in the calculation.

Error Propagation
The error in a sum is the sum of the absolute errors | d(x + y) | = | dx | + | dy | The error when Multiplied by an exact number a is absolute error multiplied by the number | d(ax) | = a| dx |
The error in a product / quotient is the sum of absolute relative error | d(x.y)/(x.y) | = | dx/x | + | dy/y |, | d(x/y)/(x/y) | = | dx/x | + | dy/y |

Error Propagation
1.Radius of a sphere is r=2.00.1m, what will be the volume of the sphere? V= 4/3 r3 = 4/3**23 = 33.510 m3 dV= 4/3 * *3r2 dr = 4**22*0.1= 5.0265 m3 Result V= 345 m3
2. For single slit a~D/x and the error is a/a = | D/D | + | / |+ |x/x| Here for D and x Use Least count of the instrument.

Significant Digits in Numerical Values

The accuracy of a numerical value may be indicated by the number of digits in the value given. Eg. We say that 15.6 has three significant digits. In multiplications and divisions, the number of significant digits in the final result should be the same as the number of significant digits in the least accurate factor.

Significant Digits in Numerical Values

(36.4792.6)/14.85 = 6.3868956 = approximately 6.4. Although extra digits are kept in the intermediate steps of the calculation, the final result has only two significant digits, because the original factor 2.6 has only two significant digits.

17.524 + 2.4 - 3.56 = 16.364 = approximately 16.4. The final result has only one digit after the decimal point because the original term 2.4 has only one digit after the decimal point.

Best fit line

A set of experimental data (x1,x2) ..(x1,x2) have a linear relationship of the form y=mx+c , m and c are the unknown parameters to be found by the experiment are errors No errors in the experiment the points will fall on a straight line. (Not possible) Measurement having errors you have to use a method called least square fit to find m and c

Best fit line


Basic Excel/Open Office Command for best fit

Plot the graph Highlight your column of x-values, then holding down <Ctrl>, highlight your column of y-values, then select the Insert tab, then choose the Scatter icon, then select the scatter graph without connecting lines. Select the Layout tab and then add a chart title, labels for the x and y axes, and any other formatting you desire by clicking the appropriate icons. Right click on the graph, then choose Select Data, then highlight the series you want to check, then click Edit to make sure the x and y data values are the correct ones.

Basic Excel Command for best fit

To get the best fit line through your data:
You have to give Excel the data given by by xrange and yrange: Highlight a 2x2 block of cells, type (do not click on a cell just start typing): =linest(yrange,xrange,1,1), then hit <Ctrl-Shift-Enter> yrange,xrange is the range of cells which contains the y- and x-values for the data you want evaluated with the linest command (typically it is the data on your graph), e.g. b3:b7. NOTE: The Chart Wizard asks for your data x axis first, while the linest command asks for your data y-axis first, be careful! y = mx + b is the best fit straight line for the set of data, and sem, seb are the respective standard errors and appear in your 2x2 table as:
m sem b seb