# Experiment 2. Reaction Time. Make a series of measurements of your reaction time. Use statistics to analyze your reaction time.

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1 Experiment 2 Reaction Time 2.1 Objectives Make a series of measurements of your reaction time. Use statistics to analyze your reaction time. 2.2 Introduction The purpose of this lab is to demonstrate repeated measurements that do not yield identical results; but this variation can give us an uncertainty (δx) on the measurements. In science, we often take measurements of the same thing multiple times and want to know how these measurements relate to each other. Today, we will be looking at your reaction time, and will try to find your average reaction time. After finding your reaction time you will find a measure of how confident you are in this value and place your reaction times into a predictable model. 2.3 Key Concepts If you don t remember your Physics I lecture material, you may need to refer to the chapters in an introductory physics textbook. Alternatively, you can find a summary on-line at Hyperphysics. 1 Look for keywords: mean, standard deviation, gaussian distribution

2 2. Reaction Time 2.4 Theory Two of the main purposes of this experiment are to familiarize yourself with the taking of experimental data and with the reduction of such data into a useful and quantitative form. In any experiment, one is concerned with the measurement of some physical quantity. In this particular experiment it will be your reaction time. When you make repeated measurements of a quantity you will find that your measurements are not all the same, but vary over some range of values. As the spread of the measurements increases, the reliability or precision of the measured quantity decreases. If the measured quantity is to be of any use in further work, or to other people, it must be capable of being described in simple terms. One method of picturing measured values of a single quantity is to create a histogram. The histogram is a diagram drawn by dividing the original set of measurements into intervals or bins of predetermined size, and counting the number of measurements within each bin. One then plots the frequency (the number of times each value occurs) versus the values themselves. A histogram has the advantage of visually presenting the distribution of readings or measurements. A typical histogram is shown in Fig It displays the number of measurements for a given reaction time. For example, the first bin has 2 measurements between seconds and seconds. When placing the values into bins, one systematically puts values that occur on the bin limits into the next higher bin. When analyzing data using a histogram, the distribution often suggests that there is a best or most likely value, around which the individual measurements are grouped. Intuitively one might say that the best value is somehow related to the middle of the distribution, while the uncertainty is related to the spread of the distribution. The following formulas, which we will define, will in general only have significance for symmetrical distributions. Using mathematical statistical theory it turns out that the best value is nothing more than the arithmetic average or mean of our measurements, which we will denote with the symbol: x. where Best value = average = mean = x = xi N xi = x 1 + x 2 + x x N 18 Last updated September 18, 2015

3 2.4. Theory Figure 2.1: A histogram showing 25 measurements of reaction time using bin sizes of seconds. Note that if you add up the number of measurements (from the y-axis) in each bin you get a total of 25. Last updated September 18,

4 2. Reaction Time N is the total number of measurements and x i are the values of individual measurements (i.e. x 1,x 2,x 3, etc.). We now need to define a quantity that is connected with the width of the distribution curve. We use a quantity that tells us how the individual measurements deviate from the central (mean) value of the distribution. This is called the standard deviation, denoted by s, and is defined as follows: (xi x) 2 where s = N 1 (xi x) 2 =(x 1 x) 2 +(x 2 x) 2 +(x 3 x) (x N x) 2 We are also interested in the uncertainty of the mean x. That is, for different sets of data, by how much does the mean (x) for each set deviate from one another. This uncertainty is characterized by the width of the experimental distribution of values of the mean x called the standard deviation of the mean, denoted by s m, and is calculated by: s m = s N Note: The larger the number (N) of measurements made of a quantity the smaller the random uncertainty associated (or s m ) with the mean value (x). If the number of readings is very high and the bins are small, the histogram approaches a continuous curve and is called a distribution curve. Many theoretical distribution curves have been defined and their properties evaluated, but the one that is most significant in the theory of measurement is the Gaussian or Normal distribution. If all of the experimental data you obtain corresponds to one physical quantity, then for a very large number of measurements they will be described by the Gaussian distribution with a peak at the average (aka mean) value x. Some of the properties of this continuous distribution are that it is symmetric around a peak value and that it falls to zero on either side of the peak, giving it a bell shaped appearance (see Fig. 2.2). We use the Greek letter sigma σ to represent the standard deviation when referring to a 20 Last updated September 18, 2015

5 2.5. In today s lab Figure 2.2: A Gaussian distribution curve with the mean x, ±s (σ) and±2s (2σ) points labelled. Gaussian distribution and s for the standard deviation calculated from a finite (limited) sets of observations ( s is the best estimate of σ for a finite set of observations). When considering Gaussian distributions, the area enclosed by the range ±σ around the peak will contain 68% of the area of the curve (or 68% of the measurements). This means that an individual measurement has a 68% chance of falling within a region ±σ around the peak, or mean value, of the distribution. An area bounded by the range ±2σ will contain 95% of the area of the curve and therefore represent a 95% chance that an individual measurement will fall within this region of the distribution. This is illustrated in Fig In today s lab In today s lab, you will be measuring your own reaction time and will use the above statistical formulae to hopefully create a Gaussian distribution Last updated September 18,

6 2. Reaction Time of your reaction times. There should be sufficient time available to collect data and do the complete lab for both yourself and your partner. 2.6 Equipment Stop watch. - To run the stop watch, press START to start and press STOP or the red button to stop. In this lab, we will start the timer using the red remote start button. After getting your measurement, press the RESET button to return the timer to zero. It should be noted that you can increase the precision of the timer by holding the STOP button for 2 seconds. After increasing the precision of the timer, the smallest increment of measurement will go from seconds to seconds. To go back, simply hold STOP again for 2 seconds. Figure 2.3: The stopwatch used for this experiment. 22 Last updated September 18, 2015

7 2.7. Procedure 2.7 Procedure Note: Before starting, please practice steps 1 3 a few times before recording your data. 1. Put your finger on the STOP button while your partner takes the red START button in the wired remote. 2. The partner with the START button will secretly start the timer. 3. Try and stop the clock as quickly as possible. 4. Record your time in the Time column of the.xls spreadsheet in the Reaction folder and reset the timer. 5. Repeat steps times. 6. On a separate sheet of paper, calculate (by hand) the values x, s, and s m for N = 5 trials. Be sure to show your work! 7. On the spreadsheet, calculate the mean by putting the equation =SUM(B12:B16)/5 in cell C19. Note that the SUM function can be used to find the sum of a group of numbers, and that B12:B16 will evaluate the sum from cell B12 to B16 (B12, B13, B14, B15, B16). The mean is simply the sum divided by the number of values in that sum (in this case we have 5 values). Make sure this value matches the number you calculated by hand. 8. Now fill in column C using the formula =(B12-\$C\$19) in the cell C12 and fill down. The use of \$ in front of C and in front of 19 locks in the cell that has the mean value so that when you fill down, that cell will not change in the formula. For example, when using the fill down feature in excel, the next cell would have the equation =(B13-\$C\$19), and so on. 9. Fill in column D by putting =C12^2 in cell D12 and fill down again. Note how this calculated value is used in the formula for standard deviation s. 10. On the spreadsheet, calculate the standard deviation in the appropriate cell by using the formula =SQRT(SUM(D12:D16)/4). Here we have that N = 5, so our denominator N 1 = 4. Make sure this value matches the number you calculated by hand! Last updated September 18,

9 2.8. Comparing Data 2.8 Comparing Data In just about every experiment in this course you will be asked if two quantities are compatible (or consistent). The following describes how to determine if two pieces of data are consistent (or compatible). Use this procedure to answer the last question of this lab and then use it as a reference whenever you are asked if two pieces of data are compatible or consistent. Let us denote the pieces of data by d 1 and d 2. We ll arbitrarily set d 2 as our expected value, denoted by e, andd 1 as the data, denoted by d. Ifd = e or d e = 0, then they are clearly compatible but we want a mathematical test for compatibility. To do that we will use the formulas described below. We often use D to denote the difference between two quantities: D = d e (2.1) This comparison must take into account the uncertainties in the observation of both measurements. The data values are d±δd and e±δe. To perform the comparison, we need to find δd. δd is the uncertainty for the difference between d and e asshowninformula2.1. The addition/subtraction rule for uncertainties is: δd = δd + δe (2.2) We are interested in knowing if the difference (D) between the 2 data points is smaller than the uncertainty in the difference (δd). This is expressed by: D δd (2.3) In Fig. 2.4 we visually demonstrate three possible cases (A, B, and C) involving consistency checks. For all three cases, the value for d±δd is 11±3 (d =11andδd = 3) but the value for e changes (e =8, 6, 5 respectively), while the value for δe remains the same (δe = 3). The values for d and e are represented by the circles while their uncertainties, δd and δe, are represented by the bars. We say the measurements d and e are compatible if their error bars touch or overlap. In case A the values are consistent as their error bars overlap. Case B is also consistent as their error bars touch. The values are inconsistent in Case C as their error bars do not overlap or touch. Equations 2.2 and 2.3 express in algebra the statement that d and e are compatible if their error bars touch or overlap (see Fig. 2.4). The combined length of the error bars is given by Eq. 2.2 and D is the separation between Last updated September 18,

10 2. Reaction Time Figure 2.4: Visual representation of a consistency check. d and e. The error bars will overlap if d and e are separated by less than the combined length of their error bars, which is what Eq. 2.3 says. Using Fig. 2.4 and the given equations, we can see that D =3, 5, 7 respectively and δd = 6 for all cases. We can then see that D δd for cases A and B, so they are consistent. However, for case C, we can see that D δd, so the values are not consistent. For more information on using uncertainties to compare data see Appendix B. 2.9 Checklist 1. The filled Excel spreadsheet plus the formula view. 2. The histogram. 3. Calculations done by hand for mean, standard deviation and standard deviation of the mean for N=5. 4. Answers to questions Last updated September 18, 2015

11 2.10. Questions 2.10 Questions 1. For all of your 25 measurements indicate on your spreadsheet whether or not each measurement lies between x ± s. How many trials would you have expected to be within that range for a pure Gaussian distribution? How many of your trials were in that range for your distribution? How does your distribution of measurements compare to a Gaussian distribution? If you made many sets of 25 trials of your reaction time, would there always be the same number of trials in that range? Last updated September 18,

12 2. Reaction Time 2. Suppose your lab partner was talking to the students at an adjacent lab table when you started the timer. As a result, the time registered on the timer when it was stopped was 10 seconds. How many standard deviations (s) from your mean value does this represent? Should you include this data point with the rest of your data? Why or why not? 3. Compare the mean, the standard deviation and the standard deviation of the mean for N = 10 with those for N =5andN = 25. Are the values the same? Why or why not? Explain. 28 Last updated September 18, 2015

13 2.10. Questions 4. If you have already taken 25 measurements, how many more measurements of reaction time would you have to take to reduce s m by a factor of two, assuming s does not change? Justify your response. 5. Two red blood cell counts are (4.52 ± 0.14) 10 6 cells cm 3 and (4.84 ± 0.18) 10 6 cells cm 3. Would you conclude that these measurements are consistent with being from the same human? Evaluate the difference and comment. (Use the formulas outlined in the Comparing Data section). Would your answer change if the second blood cell count is (4.87 ± 0.18) 10 6 cells cm 3? Last updated September 18,

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