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# On my honor I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment.

Maggie Westbrook Lab Partners: Nathan Gilreath and Katy Koon 30 August 2011 Physics 101 Tuesday 10:00 Describing the Physical World: Determining the Correct Measurements and Experimental Error Introduction: Everyday, measurements are observed and taken into consideration by everyone. Whether someone is reading a thermometer, baking cookies, or building a bird house each task requires calculating a measurement. According to SCGSSM Introductory and Modern Physics Lab Manual, a measurement is a process that assigns numbers and units to certain properties. This idea is further supported by Walter Lewin, a physics professor at MIT, who states that any measurement taken without knowledge of the uncertainty is meaningless. Error in the measurement of any physical quantity can arise from either a systematic error or a random error (also known as statistical errors). The objectives of this laboratory are to teach students to take accurate and precise measurements and to learn how to calculate the error of the experiments and then determine where the error may have come from. These objectives will be met by conducting four hands-on experiments using various measuring devices, each with different levels of precisions of measurement and recording the level of uncertainty. Experiments will include calculating human reaction time based on a measured length, the size of a candle and its flame while continuously lit, finding the average diameter of a hole using a very precise vernier caliper, and finding the temperature of boiling water each five times. The responding results will be analyzed for experimental error following the guidelines of Appendix A as well as a lab lecture. Reasons for the error and the type of error are also identified. Methods and Materials:

2 Four experiements were conducted during this laboratory each using a different measuring device. Specific procedures for four experiments were created to calculate human reaction time, the size of a candle and its flame, the average diameter of a hole, and the temperature of boiling water. Each experiement afterwards was examined by calculating the average, sample standard deviation, standard deviation, and percent error. Thus, this section is divided accordingly. Measuring Human Reaction Time To calculate human reaction time (the time it takes a human to respond to a stimulus), Nathan rested his right hand on the table and had approximately two inches between his thumb and index finger. Maggie held a 12-inch ruler from the top of it and beginning with the ruler at 0 cm in reference to the center of Nathans thumb, it was dropped. Responding to the drop of the ruler, Nathan pinched his thumb and finger together grabbing the ruler. The distance in centimeters (and then converted to meters) was estimated at the center of his thumb and recorded. This procedure was repeated four more times. The experiment is depicted in the diagram below.

## Figure 1: Measuring Human Reaction Speed using a Ruler

3 Measuring the Size of a Candle and its Flame A candle, provided by the physics lab instructor, was placed on the table and lit with a match. Using the same ruler as the previous experiment, the height of the candle in centimeters was recorded. The height was obtained by using the top of the bright yellow flame in reference to the ruler. The process was repeated four more times after waiting a brief moment before measuring the continuously burning candle.

Figure 2: Measuring the Height of a Burning Candle Measuring the Average Diameter of a Hole The inside diameter of a hole in a wooden sphere was obtained using a vernier caliper. The diameter of the hole was measured by using the interior jaws of the caliper and once tightened in that position, the measurement was taken by simply reading the position of the pointer on the scale in millimeters and then getting an even more precise measurement (hundredth of a millimeter) by recording the number where the lines on the bottom scale line up accordingly. This was repeated in four more different positions in the hole of the wooden sphere and recorded. Measuring the Temperature of Boiling Water

4 To obtain the temperature of boiling water, a Vernier Data Collector was used as well as a temperature probe. First, the data collector was programmed to obtain temperature recordings in C every half second for three hundred seconds. Next, approximately half off a cup of boiling water was obtained by the physics lab instructor and poured directly into a ceramic mug which the temperature prong was placed in making sure that the prong was in the center and not touching the bottom. The program was started before the water was poured to ensure that the entire range of temperatures was collected. The temperatures were recorded in C for five specific times (in seconds) after looking at the table.

Figure 3: Measuring the Temperature of Boiling Water Results: All data from the four experiments was placed in tables that allow interpretation and evaluation of the measurable quantities. After each data table, quantitative results of each experiment are evaluated and statistical values (mean value, standard deviation, standard deviation of the mean, and normal distribution) are found. is the calculated mean and is a value that all other measurements are equally distributed. The s represents the sample standard deviation and is simply a measurements of the scatter of the data, and does not mean necessarily the accuracy of the experiment. To find that, the sm or standard deviation of the mean was found for each experiment. It needs to be taken into consideration, the values are not affected by possible systematic errors which are evaluated by common sense of the

5 procedures and the calculations. Given below, are the four resulting tables and the proper equations for each: Table 1: Calculating Human Reaction Time using a Ruler Distance (m) Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Trial 4 Trial 5 .169 .173 .198 .224 .185 Calculated Reaction Time (s) .186 .188 .201 .214 .194

## *For this experiment, g is taken to be 9.8 m/s2 s=

s = 0.0114s

Table 2: Size of a Candle and its Flame Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Trial 4 Trial 5 Height of the Candle (cm) 14.4 14.2 14.1 14.1 14.0

6 s=

s = 0.158 cm

## Diameter (mm) 8.34 8.22 8.34 8.24 8.32

s = 0.0577 mm

Table 4: Measured Temperatures of Boiling Water Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Trial 4 Trial 5 Time (s) 12 57 102 147 192 Temperature (C) 58.4 55.7 53.1 52.0 51.1

s=

s = 2.98C

Error Analysis: Evaluating the accuracy and precision of our results is determined by calculating the percent error or percent difference for each experiment where appropriate. The average experimental value we found in each experiment can be affected by many different possible errors. To determine whether the measurements and their errors are sensible, all experiments are evaluated by , that is whether or

not the measurements are within one standard deviation of the mean. If the experimental value differs from an accepted value by more than 3 , then statistically there is a systematic error. All experiments are evaluated in this section as to what the possible errors were and what could be done to reduce the error. Because each experiment followed different procedures and have no theoretical values to compare to, all four percent errors are calculated and then examined independently of each other. Percent error was calculated for the all experiments except the height of a candle experiment by comparing the experimental value to the given, theoretical value in the following approach: Percent Error = | | x 100 |x

The percent error of the first experiment (Measuring Human Reaction Time) is, | 100, which equals 1.50%. This value is within one standard deviation of the mean and is therefore an

acceptable error. To improve its error, having more than five trials would be a possible solution as well as using a measuring tool with a greater precision than a ruler.

8 The percent error of the third experiment (Measuring the Average Diameter of the Hole) is, | | x 100, and equals 0.363%. The value of this error is incredibly small and because of

the high precision and degree of measure that the vernier caliper allows is very reasonable. It is within a standard deviation and could possibly improved by having more than five different measurements again. The percent error for the final experiment (Measuring the Temperature of Boiling Water), is, | | x 100 which givens a percent error of 46.1%. The known temperature of boiling water is

100C and when comparing the temperature of a mug of water no longer under direct heat, this value seems correct. The surrounding air temperature cools the water a considerable amount. Calculating the percent difference in the second experiment (Measuring the Height of a Burning Candle) is obtained by the following approach: Percent Difference = | | x 100

## | x 100, and equals 2.82%. This

value allows a comparison that is a gauge of the dependability of the data. Because the percent difference is not a calculated value that is being compared to a definite answer, this value can only be described as reasonable. No matter what the measurements had been, the calculated percent difference is correct. The value is also within a standard deviation and reasonable. To improve the procedures and the uncertainty of the measurements, having specific time intervals between the measurements would be good as well using a more precise measuring tool. Using the same approach, when calculating the percent difference for the Temperature of Boiling Water experiment, the percent difference is, | | x 100, and equals 13.5%.

9 Discussion: Based upon the results and the error analysis for each experiment, it is obvious the level of precision in a measurement results in reduced statistical error and a better understanding of the findings. The results of the experiments display precision in measurement and experimental error. The measurements made on the candle and the boiling water were measurements made on something that was continuously changing while measuring it. This change introduced an error into the series of measurements. In the case of taking the average five measurements of the candle would likely remove the error because it would reduced the fluctuation of the flame. The percent difference, sample standard deviation, and standard deviation of the mean were all small values than the equivalent values of the boiling water experiment. The better precision and accuracy of the candle experiment probably resulted from the less drastic fluctuations of the flame compared with the more drastic temperature fluctuations of the cooling water. Applying the lessons learned in the lab, when evaluating a chart of four scientists different measures they made of the length of a dinosaur bone in meters, many conclusions can be made about their measurements. A) Sallys measurements were both accurate and precise because they were all very similar to each other but also were similar to the correct value. B) Rich had precise measurements but they were inaccurate because his values were far from Spots correct measurement. C) Jane was accurate, but imprecise because her measurements were not close together, but she was on average similar to Spots correct measurement. D) Spot was just accurate because he only recorded one measurement and was correct. Richs measurements probably contained a systematic error because his errors had a tendency to have the same magnitude for each measure, but it was a constant error that could have resulted from a faulty measuring tool or a human error of reading incorrectly.

10 Conclusion: The purpose of this lab was to learn fundamental ideas of the importance the uncertainty of a measurement has and stress how evident errors are in any measurement. This lab teaches students through a hands-on process how to determine what is error and realize the different errors in any measurement whether it is determining the length, the reaction speed, or accurately measuring the temperature of boiling water. The lab was successful at teaching students how to accurately describe the physical world through measurements and how to better understand the ideas of measurement and experimental error.