Columbia University PHYSICS LABORATORY TUTORIAL

Error Analysis Tutorial

Welcome to the Error Analysis Tutorial. This tutorial will help you master the error analysis in the first-year, college physics laboratory. Error analysis may seem tedious; however, without proper error analysis, no valid scientific conclusions can be drawn. In fact, as the picture below illustrates, bad things can happen if error analysis is ignored. Since there is no way to avoid error analysis, it is best to learn how to do it right. After going through this tutorial not only will you know how to do it right, you might even find error analysis easy! The tutorial is organized in five chapters.

Train wreck at Montparnasse

Contents

  1. Basic Ideas
  2. How to Estimate Errors
  3. How to Report Errors
  4. Doing Calculations with Errors
  5. Random vs. Systematic Errors

Chapter 1 introduces error in the scientific sense of the word and motivates error analysis. Chapter 2 explains how to estimate errors when taking measurements. Chapter 3 discusses significant digits and relative error. Chapter 4 deals with error propagation in calculations. Chapter 5 explains the difference between two types of error.

The derailment at Gare Montparnasse, Paris, 1895.
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