Physical Measurements

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1 PC1141 Physics I Physical Measurements 1 Objectives Demonstrate the specific knowledge gained by repeated physical measurements for the mass, length, inner and outer diameters of a hollow cylinder. Apply the statistical concepts of mean, standard deviation from the mean and standard error to these measurements. Demonstrate propagation of uncertainties by determining the uncertainty in the volume and density calculated from the measured quantities. Demonstrate the method of linear least squares fits by determining a value of the mathematical constant π from measured diameters and circumferences of circles. 2 Equipment List Meter stick Vernier caliper Micrometer caliper Digital balance Hollow metal cylinder Circles set 3 Theory 3.1 Least Count and Significant Figures In general, there are exact numbers and measured numbers. Factors such as the 100 used in calculating percentage and the 2 in 2πr are exact numbers. Measured numbers, as the name implies, are those obtained from measurement instruments and generally involve some uncertainties. In reporting experimentally measured values, it is important to read one s instruments correctly. The degree of uncertainty of a number read from a measurement instrument depends on the quality of instrument and the fitness of its measuring scale. When one is reading the value from a calibrated scale, only a certain number of figures can properly be obtained or Page 1 of 9

2 Physical Measurements Page 2 of 9 read. That is, only a certain number of figures are significant. This depends on the least count of the instrument scale, which is the smallest subdivision on the measurement scale. This is the unit of the smallest reading that can be made without estimating. For example, the least count of a meter stick is usually the millimeter (mm). We commonly say the instrument is calibrated in centimeters (numbered major divisions) with a millimeter least count (see Figure 1). Figure 1: Least count. The significant figures of a measured value include all the numbers that can be read directly from the instrument scale plus one estimated number the fractional part of the least count smallest division. For example, the length of the rod in Figure 1 (as measured from the zero end) is 2.64 cm. The rod s length is known to be between 2.6 cm and 2.7 cm. The estimated fraction is taken to be 4/10 of the least count (1 mm), so the estimated figure is 4, giving 2.64 cm with three significant figures. For an instrument with a digital display, the estimated fraction is always taken to be one half of the smallest division that appears on the display. For example, if the time interval indicated by a digital stopwatch is 1.43 s, the estimated fraction is taken to be s of the least count 0.01 s. The time interval is known to be between s and s. The reported value is then s with four significant figures. Thus, measured values contain inherent uncertainty because of the estimated figure. However, the greater the number of significant figures, the greater the reliability of the measurement the number represents. For example, the length of an object may be read as 2.54 cm (three significant figures) on one instrument scale and as cm (five significant figures) on another. The latter reading from an instrument with a finer scale gives more information and reliability. 3.2 The Vernier Caliper In 1631, a Frenchman, Pierre Vernier, devised a way to improve the precision of length measurements. The vernier caliper (Figure 2), commonly called a vernier, consists of a rule with a main engraved scale and a moveable jaw with an engraved vernier scale. The span of the lower jaw is used to measure length and is particularly convenient for measuring the diameter of a cylindrical object. The span of the upper jaw is used to measure distances between two surfaces (such as, the inside diameter of a hollow cylindrical object).

3 Physical Measurements Page 3 of 9 Figure 2: A vernier caliper. The main scale is calibrated in centimeters with a millimeter least count and moveable vernier scale has 10 divisions that cover 9 divisions on the main scale. The least count of the vernier, in this case, is 1 mm/10 = 0.1 mm. When making a measurement with a meter stick, it is necessary to estimate the fractional part of the smallest division (the tenth of a millimeter). The function of the vernier scale is to assist in the accurate reading of the fractional part of the scale division, thus increasing the precision. Figure 3: An example of reading the vernier scale on a caliper. The leftmost mark on the vernier scale is the zero mark. The zero mark is often unlabeled. A measurement is made by closing the jaws on the object to be measured and reading where the zero mark on the vernier scale falls on the main scale (see Figure 3). The first two significant figures are read directly from the main scale in Figure 3. The vernier zero mark in past the 2-mm line after the 1-cm major division mark, so we have a

4 Physical Measurements Page 4 of 9 reading of 1.2 cm for both (a) and (b). The next significant figure is the fractional part of the smallest subdivision on the main scale. This is obtained by referring to the vernier scale markings below the main scale. If a vernier mark coincides with a mark on the main scale, then the vernier mark number is the fractional part of the the main-scale division (see Figure 3a). In the figure, this is the third mark to the right of the vernier zero, so the third significant figure is 3 (0.03 cm). Finally, since the 0.03-cm reading is known exactly, a zero is added as the estimated figure, for a reading of cm or mm. Note how the vernier scale gives more significant figures or extends the precision. However, a mark on the vernier scale may not always line up exactly with one on the main scale (Figure 3b). In this case, there is more uncertainty in the cm or 0.01-mm figure and we say there is a change of phase between two successive vernier markings. Notice how in Figure 3b the second vernier mark after the zero is to the right of the closest main-scale mark and the third vernier mark is to the left of the next main-scale mark. Hence, the marks change phase between the 2 and 3 marks which means the reading is between 1.22 cm and 1.23 cm. Most vernier scales are not fine enough for us to make an estimate of the estimated figure, so a suggested method is take the middle of the range. Thus we would put a 5 in the thousandth-of-a-centimeter digit, for a reading of cm. Zeroing Before making a measurement, one should check the zero of the vernier caliper with the jaws completely closed. It is possible that through misuse the caliper is no longer zeroed and thus gives erroneous readings (systematic uncertainty). If this is the case, a zero correction must be made for each reading. Figure 4: The zero of the vernier caliper is checked with the jaws closed. (a) Zero error. (b) Positive error, cm.

7 Physical Measurements Page 7 of Density The density ρ of a substance is defined as the mass m per unit volume V (i.e. ρ = m/v ). Thus, the densities of substance provide comparative measures of the amounts of matter in a particular (unit) space. Note that there are two variables in density mass and volume. Hence, densities can be affected by the masses of atoms and/or by their compactness. As can be seen from the defining equation (ρ = m/v ), the SI units of density are kilogram per cubic meter (kg/m 3 ). However, measurements are commonly made in the smaller metric units of grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm 3 ), which can be easily converted to standard units. Density may be determined experimentally by measuring the mass and volume of a sample of a substance and calculating the ratio m/v. The volume of regularly shaped objects may be calculated from length measurements. For example, the volume of a cube is given by V = length width height. The physical property of density can be used to identify substances in some cases. If a substance is not pure or is not homogenous (that is, its mass is not evenly distributed), an average density is obtained, which is generally different from that of a pure or homogenous substance.

8 Physical Measurements Page 8 of 9 4 Laboratory Work Part A: Density Determination In this part of the experiment, you will experimentally determine the density of a given hollow cylinder. The process involves measuring directly the mass, length, inner and outer diameters, and volume of the hollow cylinder, and calculating the density from these directly measured quantities. A-1. List the least count and the estimated fraction of the least count for each of the measuring instruments in Data Table 1. A-2. Using a digital balance, determine the mass of the hollow cylinder. Make TEN independent measurements and record them as m in Data Table 2. The balance reading should be zero with nothing on the balance pan. Otherwise, zero the digital balance by pressing the ZERO (or TARE ) button before any measurement is taken. A-3. Place the meter stick along the length of the hollow cylinder. DO NOT attempt to line up either edge of the hollow cylinder with one end of the meter stick or with any certain mark on the meter stick. A-4. Read the scale on the meter stick that is aligned with one end of the hollow cylinder and record that measurement as X 1 in Data Table 2. Read the scale that is aligned at the other end of the hollow cylinder and record it in Data Table 2 as X 2. A-5. Repeat steps A-3 and A-4 nine more times for a total of TEN measurements of the length of the hollow cylinder. Make the measurements at different places along the meter stick in order to sample the variation in length of the hollow cylinder. A-6. Close the jaws of the vernier caliper. Make a reading of the the zero correction for the vernier caliper and record it in Data Table 2. Close the jaws of the micrometer caliper. Make a reading of the the zero correction for the micrometer caliper and record it in Data Table 2. Note: Record the zero correction as positive if the vernier zero is to the right of the main-scale zero. Otherwise, record it as negative if the vernier zero is to the left of the main-scale zero. The exact measurement is obtained by subtracting the zero correction from the actual reading. A-7. Using the vernier caliper, measure the inner diameter of the hollow cylinder and record it as d 1 in Data Table 2. Using the micrometer caliper, measure the outer diameter of the hollow cylinder and record it as d 2 in Data Table 2. A-8. Repeat step A-7 nine more times for a total of TEN separate trials. Perform these measurements at different positions along the length of the hollow cylinder in order to sample the variation in inner (outer) diameter of the hollow cylinder.

9 Physical Measurements Page 9 of 9 Part B: π Estimation In this part of the experiment, you will measure the diameters and circumferences of a set of six circles drawn. A value of the mathematical constant π will be estimated based on the measured quantities. B-1. Determine the diameter of the smallest circle (labeled #1) and record the result as d in Data Table 3. B-2. Repeat step B-1 four more times to have a total of FIVE trials for the diameter of the circle. B-3. Determine the circumference of the smallest circle (labeled #1) and record it as C in Data Table 3. B-4. Repeat step B-3 four more times to have a total of FIVE trials for the circumference of the circle. B-5. Repeat steps B-1 through B-4 for the rest of the circles (labeled 2 6 in the sequence of increasing size). Last updated: Tuesday 12 th August, :05pm (KHCM)

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