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MEASUREMENT

• Most important topic – foundation, practical


• Errors can be disastrous - NASA probe disaster
in 1999
• In 1999, NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate
Orbiter

• Different measurement systems were used when


exchanging vital data before the craft was launched

• A navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory


used the metric system, while Lockheed Martin
Astronautics in Denver, which designed and built the
spacecraft, provided crucial acceleration data in the
English system of inches, feet and pounds.

• In a sense, the spacecraft was lost in translation.


Error caused it to be off course by about 100 km.
Sept. 23, 1999: Mars Orbiter Destroyed
http://abcnews.go.com/Archives/video/sept-23-1999-mars-
orbiter-destroyed-11002953
Key concepts in this unit

A. PHYSICAL QUANTITY - Base quantities, derived quantities,


prefixes, make estimates of physical quantities
B. SCALARS AND VECTORS – Addition and subtraction, relative
velocity, represent a vector as 2 perpendicular
components
C. ERRORS – Distinguish between systematic and random
errors, accuracy and precision
D. ESTIMATION OF S.F. AND D.P.
E. UNCERTAINTY OF MEASUREMENT – Absolute, fractional
and percentage uncertainties, calculation of consequential
uncertainty
1. PHYSICAL
QUANTITY
- A physical quantity is a quantity that be can
measured

- It is usually expressed as the product of a numerical


value and a unit (eg speed v = 80 km h-1 )
•All physical quantities in Physics can be classified
into base (or fundamental) quantities, or derived
quantities.

•In the SI Units (Système International d'Unités),


seven quantities have been arbitrarily defined as base
quantities and their units chosen.
Base quantities

Base quantities are quantities that can be accurately


and easily reproduced and are unchanging with time.
No Base Quantity Base Unit Base Unit
Name Symbol
1 mass kilogram kg
2 length metre m
3 time second s
4 electric current ampere A
5 temperature kelvin K
6 amount of substance mole mol
7 luminous intensity candela cd

•All other physical quantities in Physics can be


defined in terms of these base quantities.
•Any physical quantity must be quoted with its
numerical value and its unit.
Notes:
•v = 3 m s-1, not v = 3, which is meaningless because
it has no unit.

•Let speed = v, not let speed = v m s-1, because v is


already in m s-1.

•v = 3 mm s-1 implies v/mm s-1 = 3


or v/10-3 m s-1 = 3, not v x 10-3/m s-1 = 3.
Derived quantities

Derived quantities are quantities that are obtained


from the multiplication or division of base
quantities.
Some derived units are given special names due to
their complexity when expressed in terms of the base
units.
Derived Quantity Base Unit SI Unit Symbol
density  = m/V kg m-3 -- --
momentum p = mv kg m s-1 -- --
force F = ma kg m s-2 newton N
pressure P = F/A kg m-1 s-2 pascal Pa
work W = Fs kg m2 s-2 joule J
power P = W/t kg m2 s-3 watt W
electric charge Q = It As coulomb C
electric resistance kg m2 s-3 A-2 ohm 
R =P/I2
e.m.f. V = P/I kg m2 s-3 A-1 volt V
Can we add length to time?
Why?
•No
•Because they are not of the same unit,
the equation is not homogeneous
Homogeneity of a physical equation

A physical equation is said to be homogeneous if


each of the terms, separated by plus, minus, equality
or inequality signs has the same base units.

A correct physical equation must be homogeneous.


But a homogeneous equation need not be correct.

The method enables us to weed out wrong equations


since equations which are not homogeneous are
definitely not correct.
Example 1
Is the equation v = u + at homogenous?

[v] = m s-1
[u] = m s-1
[at ] = m s-2 s = m s-1

The 3 terms have the same base units, hence the


equation is homogeneous.
In fact the equation is also correct.
Example 2
Determine if the equation v2 = u2 + as is
homogeneous.

[v2] = (m s-1)2 = m2 s-2


[u2] = (m s-1)2 = m2 s-2
[as] = (m s-2) m = m2 s-2
The equation v2 = u2 + as is homogeneous.
But it is incorrect as the correct equation is
v2 = u2 + 2as.
Notes:
The kinematics equations for uniformly accelerated
motion in a straight line:

v = u + at
v2 = u2 + 2as
s = ut + ½ at2

where t is time
a is acceleration
u is initial velocity
v is velocity after time t
s is displacement travelled after time t
Prefixes and their symbols

A prefix added to a unit means that the unit is


multiplied by a numerical value represented by the
prefix.
Prefixes and their symbols
Prefix Name Symbol Example

10-15 femto f 10 fm (upper limit of nuclear size)


10-12 pico p 10 pF (capacitance)
10-9 nano n 400 to 700 nm (wavelength of light)
2 nm (width of DNA)
10-6 micro  20 – 180 m (thickness of human hair)
7 m (width of red blood cell)
10-3 milli m mA (current that kills)
10-2 centi c 2 cm (wavelength of microwave)
10-1 deci d 40 dB (intensity level of quiet conversation)
103 kilo k 50 kg (mass of a person)
106 mega M 98.7 MHz (Perfect 10 station)
109 giga G 16 GBytes (Random Access Memory)

1012 tera T Tm (radius of solar system)


2 TB (computer hard disk space)
Estimates of physical quantities

You should have a feel for the values of common


physical quantities. This knowledge is important as it
allows you to check the answers in your calculations.
Physical quantity Estimated value
Upper limit to nuclear size 10-14 m
diameter of an atom 10-10 m
wavelength of visible light 4 x 10-7 to 7 x 10-7 m
length of filament of a car lamp 10-2 m
radius of earth 106 m
mass of an apple 300 g
mass of a car 2 000 kg
current through a car lamp 1A
current through heating coil of a kettle 10 A
typical frequency of voice of a man 200 to 300 Hz
magnetic flux density of earth 10-5 T
density of water 1.0 x 103 kg m-3
power of a hairdryer 1000 W
viscosity of water 1.0 x 10-3 N s m-2
Quiz
Estimate the area of the island of Singapore.

Area = (50)(15) = 750 km2


2. SCALARS AND
VECTORS
Scalars and vectors

scalar quantities vector quantities

magnitude magnitude direction

scalar quantities vector quantities


distance displacement
speed velocity
mass weight
energy momentum
Scalars and vectors
A scalar is specified by its magnitude and its unit. For
example,
the speed of a car = 10 m s-1.

A vector is specified by its magnitude, unit and


direction. For example,
the velocity of a car = 10 m s-1 due west;
the force on a ball = 10 N acting to the left etc.

Vector notation of force: F or F

The magnitude can be represented by IFI or F .


Vector diagram

Length of arrow represents magnitude of vector


Direction of arrow represents direction of vector

Two vectors are equal if they have the same magnitude


and direction.

A B
A=B
Vector addition
(a) By parallelogram law:
To add vectors P and Q, draw them such that they
form the adjacent sides of a parallelogram. Then the
resultant vector R is given by the diagonal of the
parallelogram.

P P R
Q

Q
Vector addition
(b) By vector triangle:
To add vectors P and Q, draw them such that they
form the two sides of a triangle, where P and Q are
joined nose-to-tail. Then the resultant vector R is
represented by the third side of the triangle, where R
joins P and Q nose-to-nose and tail-to-tail respectively.

Q
P R
Q
R P

Q
Notes:
The magnitude and direction of the resultant vector R can
be found by scale drawing

R P

Q

You will need a protractor to find  !!


Notes:
or by calculation using the cosine equation

R2 = P 2 + Q2 - 2PQ cos.

R P

Q
When solving problem, keep a look out for:
- Equilateral triangle
- Isosceles triangle
- Right angle triangle, especially the 3, 4, 5 or 5, 12, 13 triangle
Notes:
•When more than 2 vectors are to be added, the
resultant vector R can be found by drawing a polygon.
•The result is the same whatever the order in which the
vectors are added.

D E D C
B

C A
R B
E
A
Example 3
A man moves 40 m due east and then 30 m due north. What is his
displacement from his starting position?
North

d 30 m

East
40 m

displacement d  40  30  50 m
2 2

30
tan  =    37o
40
Thus his displacement is 50 m in the direction N53oE.
Vector subtraction
R = P – Q = P + (– Q)

where – Q is a vector of the same magnitude but of


opposite direction to Q.

Resultant vector R can be found by either the


parallelogram law or the vector triangle as follows:
–Q
P Q R R
P P
–Q
by parallelogram law by vector triangle
Example 4

Vf = 20 m s-1
Vi = 15 m s-1 due south
due east

(a) change of speed  20 – 15  5 m s1.


Example 4

Vf = 20 m s-1

Vi = 15 m s-1 due south V Vf
due east

– Vi
(b) change of velocity V  Vf  Vi  Vf   Vi 
from the vector triangle,

V  152  202  25 m s1


15
tan  =    37o
20
Thus change in velocity is 25 m s1 in direction S37o W.
Quiz 2010 P1 Q2

Vf
East

Vi = 8 m s-1
Vf = 6 m s-1 - Vi
due north V
due east

South
Quiz
Two forces, each of 10 N, act at a point P as shown
the diagram. Find the magnitude of the resultant
force.

10 N
10 N
120
60

10 N
Magnitude of the resultant force is 10 N.
Relative velocity
If object A travels with a constant velocity of VA and
object B travels with constant velocity of VB ,

Relative velocity of A with respect to B is


VAB = VA – VB

Relative velocity of B relative to A is

VBA = VB – VA = – VAB
Example 5
In a 100 m race, Adam is running abreast Ben at the 10
m mark. If Adam’s speed is 10.3 m s-1 and Ben’s speed is
10.0 m s-1 at that instant, what is the relative velocity of
Adam with respect to Ben? Assuming that they maintain
the same speeds, how long will Adam take to be ahead
of Ben by 2.0 m?

Relative velocity of Adam with respect to Ben is


VAB  VA – VB  10.3  10.0  0.3 m s1

Time taken for Adam to be ahead of Ben by 2.0 m is


S 2.0
t    6.7 s
VAB 0.3
Quiz 2011P1 Q4 (H1) vC

A passenger in a train
travelling due North at VR VCT
speed vT sees a car VC VT vT
travelling due East at VC  VT 
speed vC .
Which diagram shows the velocity vR relative to the
passenger on the train?
Components of a Vector

•A vector can be split or resolved into two parts which


are called the components of the vector.

•The components are usually chosen to be along two


mutually perpendicular directions.

•The process of splitting vectors into their


components is known as resolution of vectors.
Components of a Vector

A force F has 2 components Fx and Fy

where Fx  F cos 
F
Fy  F sin  Fy

and F  F
2 2
X  FY
2

Fx
Example 6
y F1
Two forces, F1 and F2, act at
a point as shown in the 8.0 N
diagram. The magnitudes of 60
F1 and F2 are 8.0 N and 5.0 x
53
N respectively. Find the 5.0 N
resultant of these two F2
forces.

FX  F1X  F2X  8.0 cos 60o  5.0 cos 53o  0.99 N

FY  F1Y  F2Y  8.0 sin 60o  5.0 sin 53o  2.9 N


Example 6
y F1
8.0 N
Fy F
60
x
53
5.0 N
 F2
Fx

F  FX2  FY 2  0.992  2.92  3.1 N


2.9
tan  =    71o
0.99
Thus F is 3.1 N in the direction 71o above the horizontal.
3. ERRORS
Sources of Error
(a) the instrument:

•Any drift of zero reading contributes to zero errors in all


instruments with a calibrated scale. For example, old
instruments like old ammeter and old voltmeters may
suffer drift in accuracy due to the weakening of magnet
or spring
•mass-produced instruments may not be correctly
calibrated

•external conditions, particularly extreme temperatures,


may affect the accuracy of many instruments
Sources of Error
(b) the experimenter:

•Improper use of instruments is a common source of


error. For example, parallax error, misalignment of zero
scale, over-tightening of micrometer screw gauge etc.
Sources of Error
(c) the nature of the quantity to be measured:

•Some quantities may inherently change with time


during the measurement (e.g. count rate of a radioactive
source)

•or may give different values if the readings are taken at


different points (e.g. diameter of a long wire).
ERRORS

Systematic error random error


Systematic errors

(a) An error is systematic if repeating the measurement


under the same conditions yields readings with
error of same magnitude and sign.

Readings with systematic error change in a


predictable manner depending on the conditions.
Examples of systematic error:

•zero error of an instrument


•calibration error of an instrument
•a stop watch that is running too slowly or too
quickly
•heat loss in calorimetry
•background counts when measuring the count rate
of a radioactive source
Random errors

(b) An error is random if repeating the measurement


under the same conditions yields readings with
error of different magnitude and sign. Readings
with random error spread over a certain range
within which a mean value may be determined.

The values do not follow a regular pattern of


occurrence. Thus random error occurs statistically,
with equal probability of being positive or
negative.
Examples of random error:

•measuring the diameter of a wire which has


slightly different thickness at different points of the
wire
•human judgement in the timing of a number of
oscillations
•fluctuations in the voltmeter or ammeter readings
due to poor connection in an electrical circuit
•parallax error*
Treatment of errors

• Systematic errors are usually difficult to detect.

• Such an error is only suspected when the


experimental value is different from the expected
value as deduced from a theoretical analysis, or
when changing the experimental procedure leads
to a different result.
Treatment of errors

(a) Systematic error can be eliminated by making


corrections for it if the cause of the systematic
error is known.

For example, the zero error of a micrometer can be


determined and then subtracted from the observed
reading. Or the measuring instrument can be
recalibrated.
Treatment of errors

(b) Random errors are statistical in nature and can be


minimized be taking the mean of a large number
of measurements.

As the errors have equal probability of being


positive or negative, they tend to cancel out to
some extent when the mean is calculated.
Quiz
Errors in measurement may be either systematic or
random. Which of the following involves random
error?
A not allowing for zero error on a moving-coil
voltmeter
B not subtracting background count rate when
determining the count rate from a radioactive
source
C stopping a stopwatch at the end of a race
D using the value of g as 10 N kg-1 when calculating
weight from mass
Accuracy and precision
(a) The accuracy of an experiment is a measure of how
close the result of an experiment comes to the true
value. (i.e. It is a measure of the correctness of the
result.)

The accuracy of an experiment is generally


dependent of how well we can control or
compensate for systematic errors. These are errors
which will make our results different from the true
value.
Accuracy and precision
(b) The precision of an experiment is a measure of how
exactly the result is determined without reference
to what that result means. (i.e. It is a measure of
how small the uncertainty is.)

The smaller the uncertainty of the measurement,


the more precise is the measurement. The precision
of an experiment is dependent on how well we can
minimize random errors.
Which set (blue/orange) is more precise? Accurate?

accurate
but not
precise
precise but
not
accurate
frequency of results frequency of results

more accurate more precise

value value

true value
Notes:

•Precise reading has small uncertainty. Thus one must


use instruments of appropriate precision.

•For example, use a ruler to measure the length of a


pencil (1 mm), but use a micrometer screw gauge to
measure the thickness of paper (0.01 mm).
Example 7
A student uses an ammeter. The ammeter has a needle
which moves above a horizontal scale. There are three
sources of error in the readings:
•The ammeter has an incorrectly set zero.
•The ammeter always gives a reading which is 5% lower
than the true current.
•The student’s eye is not always vertically above the
ammeter needle.
Which row correctly classifies these sources of error?
Random error Systematic
error
A 1 2,3
B 1,3 2
C 2,3 1
D 3 1,2
Example 8
A voltmeter connected across a resistor in a circuit gives
readings which have high precision but low accuracy.

Which of the following best describes the likely error in


readings taken with this voltmeter?

random error systematic error

A high high
B high low
C low high
D low low
Quiz
A steel rule can be read to the nearest mm. It is used to
measure the length of a bar whose true length is 895 mm.

Repeated measurements give the following readings:

length/mm 892, 891, 892, 891, 891, 892

Results are accurate to within 1 mm: yes /no


Results are precise to within 1 mm: yes /no
Quiz
An object of mass 1.000 kg is placed on 4 different
balances. For each balance the reading is taken 5 times.
Which balance has the smallest systematic error but is
not very precise?
balance reading/kg mean/ Deviation Biggest
from true Deviation
1 2 3 4 5 kg value from mean

A 1.000 1.000 1.002 1.001 1.002 1.001 0.001 0.001


B 1.011 0.999 1.001 0.989 0.995 0.999 0.001 0.012
C 1.012 1.013 1.012 1.014 1.014 1.013 0.013 0.001
D 0.993 0.987 1.002 1.000 0.983 0.993 0.007 0.01

A is accurate and precise


B is accurate but not precise
C is not accurate but precise
D is not accurate and not precise
4. ESTIMATIONS OF
S.F. AND D.P.
The number of significant figures indicates the reliability
of a reading.
uncertain
If a reading is recorded as 21.35 cm, it means that the
last figure 5 is uncertain even though the uncertainty is
not specified.
Value Number of significant figures
1.950 4
0.001950 4
1950 3 or 4
1.95 x103 3
1.950 x103 4
General rules to estimate
s.f. and d.p.
(a) For the sum or difference of a number of values, the
number of decimal places follows the value with the
least number of decimal places.

For example, if a = 25.4 cm and b = 4.567 cm,


Then Y = a + b = 25.4 + 4.567
= 30.0 cm (follows 1 d.p. of 25.4 cm)

As the value in the first decimal place of a already


carries an uncertainty, Y should be quoted to one
decimal place only. The values in the second and third
decimal places of b have lost their significance.
(b) For the product or quotient of a number of values, the
number of significant figures follows the value with
the least number of significant figures.

For example, if a = 25.4 cm and b = 4.567 cm,


Then Y = a x b = 25.4 cm x 4.567 cm
= 116 cm2 (follows 3 s.f. of 25.4 cm).
(b) For the product or quotient of a number of values, the
number of significant figures follows the value with
the least number of significant figures.

Exceptions:
If the time for 20 oscillations t = 25.5 s,
t 25.5
Period T    1.28 s
20 20
(follows 3 s.f. of t since 20 is an exact value)
(b) For the product or quotient of a number of values, the
number of significant figures follows the value with
the least number of significant figures.

Exceptions:
Y = 0.9 x 3.1416 = 2.8
(follows 0.9 which is close to 1.0 with 2 s.f.)

Cut off number is 8


(c) For sinusoidal functions, the number of significant
figures follows the significant figure of the angle.

For example,
X = tan 2.6o = 0.045 (follows 2 s.f. of 2.6)
Y = cos 0.36o = 1.0 (follows 2 s.f. of 0.36)
Z = sin 0.87o = 0.0152 (follows 0.87 which is close to
1.00 with 3 s.f.)
(d) For logarithm of values, the number of decimal places
of the logged value follows the number of significant
figures in the original value.

For example,
Y = log10 48 = 1.68 (corrected to 2 d.p. after the decimal
point to follow 48 with 2 s.f.)

Y = log10 4.8 = 0.68 (corrected to 2 d.p. after the decimal


point to follow 4.8 with 2 s.f.)
(d) For logarithm of values, the number of decimal places
of the logged value follows the number of significant
figures in the original value.

•Note that both 48 and 4.8 carry two significant figures.


So their logged values have 2 decimal places
respectively.

•The value of “1” in log1048 is due to the fact that 48 =


4.8  10 and log10101 = 1.

•The value of “0” in log104.8 is due to the fact that 4.8 =


4.8  1 and log101 = 0.
In summary:

+ and/or – , follow least decimal place

× and/or ÷ , follow least significant figures

sine/cosine/tangent, follow significant figures of the


angle

Can give 1 more significant figure for numbers 8 or 9

Logarithm, number of decimal places follow number


of significant figures
5. UNCERTAINTY OF
MEASUREMENT
1. Absolute uncertainty
2. Fractional uncertainty
3. Percentage uncertainty
Absolute uncertainty
A reading R is recorded in the form of R  R
where R is absolute uncertainty.
The graduation of the scale of the instrument determines
the uncertainty of the measurement obtained.
Absolute uncertainty
(a) If the separation between scale markings on an
instrument is small (about 1mm), readings are taken
to the nearest half of the smallest graduation.
Uncertainty is half the smallest graduation.

(b) If the separation between scale markings on an


instrument is large, readings are taken to the nearest
fifth of the smallest graduation. Uncertainty is one
fifth of the smallest graduation.
A metre rule graduated to the nearest 1 mm has
small graduations.

Read to ½ (1 mm) = 0.5 mm or 0.05 cm.

Uncertainty is 0.5 mm or 0.05 cm.


A 3 V voltmeter graduated to the nearest 0.1 V has
large graduations.
1
Read to  0.1  0.02 V.
5
Uncertainty is 0.02 V.
•0.05 cm and 0.02 V are absolute uncertainties.

•Always quoted to one significant figure only.

•The number of decimal places in a reading is the same


as that in the uncertainty.

•An exact reading of 20 cm using a ruler must be


recorded as 20.00  0.05 cm, not as 20  0.05 cm.

•An exact reading of 2 V using the above voltmeter is


recorded as 2.00  0.02 V, not as 2  0.02 V.
Common measuring instruments
1. Metre rule
R1 R2 Iength l  R1  R2
uncertainty in Iength l  R1  R2

R1 = R2 = ±0.05 cm


l = ±0.1 cm

No measuring smallest uncertainty and uncertainty and d.p.


instrument graduation d.p. in a reading in a measurement
1 metre rule 0.1 cm 0.05 cm, 2 d.p. 0.1 cm, 1 d.p.

2 3V voltmeter 0.1 V 0.02 V, 2 d.p. 0.04 V, 2 d.p.


3 micrometer 0.01 mm 0.005 mm, 3 0.01 mm, 2 d.p.
screw gauge d.p.
2. 3 V voltmeter

No measuring smallest uncertainty and uncertainty and d.p.


instrument graduation d.p. in a reading in a measurement
1 metre rule 0.1 cm 0.05 cm, 2 d.p. 0.1 cm, 1 d.p.

2 3V voltmeter 0.1 V 0.02 V, 2 d.p. 0.04 V, 2 d.p.


3 micrometer 0.01 mm 0.005 mm, 3 0.01 mm, 2 d.p.
screw gauge d.p.
3. micometer screw gauge

No measuring smallest uncertainty and uncertainty and d.p.


instrument graduation d.p. in a reading in a measurement
1 metre rule 0.1 cm 0.05 cm, 2 d.p. 0.1 cm, 1 d.p.

2 3V voltmeter 0.1 V 0.02 V, 2 d.p. 0.04 V, 2 d.p.


3 micrometer 0.01 mm 0.005 mm, 3 0.01 mm, 2 d.p.
screw gauge d.p.
4. Vernier calipers (20 division or 10 division)

No measuring smallest uncertainty and uncertainty and d.p.


instrument graduation d.p. in a reading in a measurement
4 vernier calipers 0.005 cm 0.005 cm, 3 d.p. 0.01 cm, 2 d.p.
(20 division)
vernier calipers 0.01 cm 0.01 cm, 2 d.p. 0.02 cm, 2 d.p.
(10 division)

Uncertainty = smallest
graduation!
5. thermometer

1
uncertainty   0. 5o C 
2
 0. 25o C
 0. 3o C to1 s.f. 
R = 32.0 ± 0.3 oC

No measuring smallest uncertainty and uncertainty and d.p.


instrument graduation d.p. in a reading in a measurement
5 thermometer 0.5 oC 0.3oC, 1 d.p. For temperature
change
0.5oC, 1 d.p.
6 digital stop watch 0.01s 0.1 s, 1 d.p. 0.2 s, 1 d.p.
6. digital stop watch

Stop watch reads to   0.01 s

Due to human reaction time


of about 0.2 s,
uncertainty   0.2 s

t = 75.8 ± 0.2 s

No measuring smallest uncertainty and uncertainty and d.p.


instrument graduation d.p. in a reading in a measurement
5 thermometer 0.5 oC 0.3oC, 1 d.p. For temperature
change
0.5oC, 1 d.p.
6 digital stop watch 0.01s 0.1 s, 1 d.p. 0.2 s, 1 d.p.
6. digital stop watch

Stop watch reads to   0.01 s

Due to human reaction time


of about 0.2 s,
uncertainty   0.2 s

R = 75.8 ± 0.2 s

Timing can be recorded to the accuracy of the


instrument if the timing is recorded by light gates (use
together with data logger).
Example 9
In various experiments to determine the value of the
acceleration of free fall (g = 9.81 m s-2), the results
obtained and their uncertainties are as follows:

(a) 9.7  0.3 m s-2


(b) 9.24  0.02 m s-2
(c) 9.476  0.005 m s-2

Which one of the above results is the most accurate and


which is the most precise? Explain your answer.
Example 9
In various experiments to determine the value of the
acceleration of free fall (g = 9.81 m s-2), the results
obtained and their uncertainties are as follows:

(a) 9.7  0.3 m s-2


(b) 9.24  0.02 m s-2
(c) 9.476  0.005 m s-2
(a) is the most accurate as 9.7 m s-2 is closest to the true
value of 9.81 m s-2.
(c) is the most precise as the uncertainty of 0.005 m s-2 is
the smallest.
Fractional and percentage uncertainty
All readings can be recorded in the form of
R  R where R is absolute uncertainty.

However, the suitability of an instrument in relation to a


certain measurement is not reflected by the absolute
uncertainty but by the fractional or percentage
uncertainty which are defined as follows:

R
Fractional uncertainty 
R Expressed
to 2 or 3 sf
R
Percentage uncertainty   100%
R
Example 10
Using a metre-rule, the thickness of two separate
objects are measured to be (a) 20.0 ± 0.1 cm and (b)
0.2 ± 0.1 cm respectively. Determine their percentage
uncertainties.

(a) For 20.0 ± 0.1 cm,


R 0.1
Percentage uncertainty =  100   100  0.5%
R 20.0

Unacceptable!
(b) For 0.2 ± 0.1 cm,
R 0.1
Percentage uncertainty =  100   100  50%!!
R 0.2
Use micro meter screw gauge, d = 0.01 mm
•For higher degree of precision, use vernier calipers or a
micrometer screw gauge, as they give a lower percentage
uncertainty.

•Thus the suitability of a measuring instrument in relation


to a measurement is determined by the fractional or
percentage uncertainty of the measured value with the
instrument.
Consequential uncertainty
of a calculated value
1 If a quantity is the sum or difference of a few
variables, the consequential uncertainty of the
quantity is the sum of the absolute uncertainties of
the variables.
If Y  a  b or Y  a  b, then Y  a  b
Example 11
Given that a = 41.2 ± 0.1 cm and b = 20.0 ± 0.5 cm, find
the consequential uncertainty of
(a) Y = a + b and
(b) Y = a – b.

(a) Y = a + b = 41.2 + 20.0 = 61.2 cm.


Y = a + b = 0.1 + 0.5 = 0.6 cm.
=> Y = 61.2 ± 0.6 cm.
(b) Y = a – b = 41.2 – 20.0 = 21.2 cm.
Y = a + b = 0.1 + 0.5 = 0.6 cm
=> Y = 21.2 ± 0.6 cm.
Example 12
Given that a = 16.8 ± 0.1 cm and b = 3.15 ± 0.01 cm, find
the consequential uncertainty of
(a) Y = a + b and (b) Y = a – b.

(a) Y = a + b = = 16.8 + 3.15 = 19.95 cm.


Y = a + b = 0.1 + 0.01 = 0.1 cm. (to 1 s.f.)
=> Y = 20.0 ± 0.1 cm.
(b) Y = a – b = = 16.8 – 3.15 = 13.65 cm.
Y = a + b = 0.1 + 0.01 = 0.1 cm. (to 1 s.f.)
=> Y = 13.7 ± 0.1 cm.
•Measurement of length is obtained from the
difference of two scale readings of an instrument.

•And the maximum consequential uncertainty is


equal to the sum of the absolute uncertainty in
each reading.
Example 13
A student attempts to measure the diameter of a steel ball
by using a different type of metre rule to measure four
similar balls in a row.

The positions on the scale are estimated to be


X = (1.0 ± 0.1) cm
Y = (5.0 ± 0.1) cm
What is the diameter of a steel ball together with its
associated uncertainty?
Example 13

X = (1.0 ± 0.1) cm
Y = (5.0 ± 0.1) cm

4d = (5.0 ± 0.1) – (1.0 ± 0.1) = 4.0 ± 0.2 cm


=> d = 1.00 ± 0.05 cm

By taking the measurement of 4 similar balls in a row


instead of one at a time, the uncertainty is quartered.
And the result is thus more precise.
2 If a quantity is the product or quotient of a few
variables, the fractional uncertainty of the quantity is
the sum of the fractional uncertainties of the
variables.
a Y a b
If Y  a  b or Y  , then  
b Y a b
Example 14

Given that a = 10.3 ± 0.1 cm and b = 5.6 ± 0.1 cm, find

(a) Y = a x b = 10.3 x 5.6 = 57.68 cm2


Y a b
 
Y a b
Y 0.1 0.1
  
57.68 10.3 5.6
 Y  2 cm (to 1 s.f.)
2

Y  58  2 cm 2
Example 14

Given that a = 10.3 ± 0.1 cm and b = 5.6 ± 0.1 cm, find

a 10.3
(b ) Y    1.839
b 5.6
Y a b
 
Y a b
Y 0.1 0.1
  
1.839 10.3 5.6

 Y  0.05 (to 1 s.f.)


Y  1.84  0.05
Y a
3. If Y  a  a  a  a..., then
n
n
Y a

For a sphere,
M M
density  given by the formula  
V 4 3
r
3

 M r
Then consequential uncertainty is  3
 M r
4
and  are exact numbers and have no uncertainty,
3
so they do not contribute any fractional uncertainty.
Y a
3. If Y  a  a  a  a ..., then n
n
Y a

For a sphere,
M M
density  given by the formula  
V 4 3
r
3

 M r
Then consequential uncertainty is  3
 M r

The radius has a power of 3 and hence contributes a


fractional uncertainty that is 3 times larger.
Y a
3. If Y  a  a  a  a ..., then n
n
Y a

For a sphere,
M M
density  given by the formula  
V 4 3
r
3

 M r
Then consequential uncertainty is  3
 M r

Hence all high-powered variables warrant careful


measurement using instruments with small absolute
uncertainties.
In summary:
1. If Y  a  b or Y  a  b, then Y  a  b

a Y a b
2. If Y  a  b or Y  , then  
b Y a b

Y a
3. If Y  a  a  a  a ..., then
n
n
Y a

Y expressed to 1 significant figure


Y follows the number of decimal places of Y
4 It is sometimes easier to derive the absolute
uncertainty of a derived quantity by simple numerical
substitution
Example 15
The equation connecting object distance u, image
distance v and focal length f for a lens is
1 1 1
 
u v f
A student measures values of u and v, with their
associated uncertainties. These are u = 50 mm ± 3 mm
and v = 200 mm ± 5 mm.
He calculates the value of f as 40 mm. What is the
uncertainty in this value?
Minimum value of u = umin = 50 – 3 = 47 mm
Minimum value of v = vmin = 200 – 5 = 195 mm
1 1 1 1 1 f  f  f min
   
f min u min v min 47 195  40  37.87
f min  37.87 mm  2 mm (1 s.f.)
OR
Maximum value of u = umax= 50 + 3 = 53 mm
Maximum value of v = vmax= 200 + 5 = 205 mm
1 1 1 1 1 f  f max  f
   
f max u max v max 53 205  42.11  40
f max  42.11 mm  2 mm (1 s.f.)
Alternatively,

f f min
f  (
max
)
2
 2.12 mm  2 mm (1 s.f.)

This method is useful if the value of f is not given.


Thank you