Columbia University PHYSICS LABORATORY TUTORIAL

5.1. Random Errors

Errors that can be reliably estimated by repeating measurements are called random. In all our examples in this tutorial, when we mentioned error we meant random error. Remember the measuring of the oscillation period of a pendulum with a stopwatch? Some of our measurements were above the mean, while some of them were below. That's why we call this kind of error random. Our error estimate is obtained from the random distribution of our measurements around the mean value. As we have shown in this tutorial, random error can be easily quantified using the standard deviation formula or a 2/3 rule. Most of the error analysis in your lab will involve the estimation of random errors.

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