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Want to go Hunting?

Adventures in Accuracy vs. Precision




Pre-Lab Discussion:

There is no such thing as a perfect measurement. Each measurement contains a degree of uncertainty due
to the limits of instruments and the people using them. In laboratory exercises, students are expected to
follow the same procedure that scientists follow when they make measurements. Each measurement
should be reported with some digits that are certain plus one digit with a value that has been estimated.

For example, if a student is reading the level of water in a graduated cylinder that has lines to mark each
milliliter of water, then he or she should report the volume of the water to the tenth place (i.e. 18.5 ml.)
This would show that the 18 mLs are certain and the student estimated the final digit because the water
level was about half way between the 18 and 19 mark.
Two concepts that have to do with measurements are accuracy and precision.
The accuracy of the measurement refers to how close the measured value is to the true or accepted
value. For example, if you used a balance to find the mass of a known standard 100.00 g mass, and
you got a reading of 78.55 g, your measurement would not be very accurate. One important
distinction between accuracy and precision is that accuracy can be determined by only one
measurement, while precision can only be determined with multiple measurements.
Precision refers to how close together a group of measurements actually are to each other. Precision
has nothing to do with the true or accepted value of a measurement, so it is quite possible to be very
precise and totally inaccurate. In many cases, when precision is high and accuracy is low, the fault
can lie with the instrument. If a balance or a thermometer is not working correctly, they might
consistently give inaccurate answers, resulting in high precision and low accuracy.

Objective: To find the accuracy/precision of a series of measurements.





Materials: 3; 1.0 meter long pieces of string
Meter stick
Ruler
Marker

Procedures:

1. Take a meter stick and carefully measure a string to be exactly 1.0 meter long. Cut the string so that
it is exactly 1.0 meters long. Put a small piece of tape over each end to keep the ends from fraying.
Repeat a total of three times.

2. On one string mark on the string (using a marker) where 25 cm, 50 cm, and 75 cm will be on the
string.

3. On another string mark on the string (using a marker) where 10 cm, 20 cm, 30 cm, 40 cm, 50 cm, 60
cm, 70 cm, 80 cm and 90 cm will be on the string.

4. Using the string with only the 1.0 m increment on it, measure the length of your desk top as
accurately you can. Enter the measurement in your data table. Measure the length twice more,
using the opposite end for your starting point. Remember your length needs to be all the units you
know for certainty and one that you estimate on.

5. Using the string that has the 4 incremental markings at 25, 50, 75 & 100cm, measure the length of
your desktop as accurately as you can. Enter the measurement in your data table. Measure the
length twice more, using the opposite end of the desk.

6. Using the string that has the 10 incremental markings at 10, 20, 30 cm, etc marks, measure the
length of your desktop as accurately as you can. Enter the measurement in your data table.
Measure the length twice more, using the opposite end of the desk.


7. Using the ruler, measure the length of your desktop as accurately as possible. Enter the
measurement in your data table. Measure the length two more times, using different starting
points on the surface of the desk.

8. Repeat procedural steps # 4 - #7 measuring the length of one of the White Board.

9. Repeat procedural steps #4 - #7 measuring your height.


Data Tables (I will give you a separate sheet put your data)

Questions and Analysis (I will give you a separate sheet to answer these questions)