<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

When we express measured values, we can only list as many digits as we initially measured with our measuring tool. For example, if you use a standard ruler to measure the length of a stick, you may measure it to be 36 . 7 cm size 12{"36" "." 7" cm"} {} . You could not express this value as 36 . 71 cm size 12{"36" "." "71"" cm"} {} because your measuring tool was not precise enough to measure a hundredth of a centimeter. It should be noted that the last digit in a measured value has been estimated in some way by the person performing the measurement. For example, the person measuring the length of a stick with a ruler notices that the stick length seems to be somewhere in between 36 . 6 cm size 12{"36" "." 6" cm"} {} and 36 . 7 cm size 12{"36" "." 7" cm"} {} , and he or she must estimate the value of the last digit. Using the method of significant figures    , the rule is that the last digit written down in a measurement is the first digit with some uncertainty . In order to determine the number of significant digits in a value, start with the first measured value at the left and count the number of digits through the last digit written on the right. For example, the measured value 36 . 7 cm size 12{"36" "." 7" cm"} {} has three digits, or significant figures. Significant figures indicate the precision of a measuring tool that was used to measure a value.

Zeros

Special consideration is given to zeros when counting significant figures. The zeros in 0.053 are not significant, because they are only placekeepers that locate the decimal point. There are two significant figures in 0.053. The zeros in 10.053 are not placekeepers but are significant—this number has five significant figures. The zeros in 1300 may or may not be significant depending on the style of writing numbers. They could mean the number is known to the last digit, or they could be placekeepers. So 1300 could have two, three, or four significant figures. (To avoid this ambiguity, write 1300 in scientific notation.) Zeros are significant except when they serve only as placekeepers .

Determine the number of significant figures in the following measurements:

  1. 0.0009
  2. 15,450.0
  3. 6 × 10 3 size 12{6 times "10" rSup { size 8{3} } } {}
  4. 87.990
  5. 30.42

(a) 1; the zeros in this number are placekeepers that indicate the decimal point

(b) 6; here, the zeros indicate that a measurement was made to the 0.1 decimal point, so the zeros are significant

(c) 1; the value 10 3 size 12{"10" rSup { size 8{3} } } {} signifies the decimal place, not the number of measured values

(d) 5; the final zero indicates that a measurement was made to the 0.001 decimal point, so it is significant

(e) 4; any zeros located in between significant figures in a number are also significant

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Significant figures in calculations

When combining measurements with different degrees of accuracy and precision, the number of significant digits in the final answer can be no greater than the number of significant digits in the least precise measured value . There are two different rules, one for multiplication and division and the other for addition and subtraction, as discussed below.

1. For multiplication and division: The result should have the same number of significant figures as the quantity having the least significant figures entering into the calculation . For example, the area of a circle can be calculated from its radius using A = πr 2 size 12{A=πr rSup { size 8{2} } } {} . Let us see how many significant figures the area has if the radius has only two—say, r = 1 . 2 m size 12{r=1 "." 2" m"} {} . Then,

Questions & Answers

what is Andromeda
smart Reply
what is velocity
Fati Reply
displacement per unit time
Murlidhar
the ratec of displacement over time
Jamie
the rate of displacement over time
Jamie
the rate of displacement over time
Jamie
did you need it right now
Pathani
up to tomorrow
Santosh
i need a description and derivation of kinetic theory of gas
Santosh
pls the sum of change in kinetic and potential energy is always what ?
Faith
i need a description and derivation of kinetic theory of gas
Santosh
did you need it right now
Pathani
A few grains of table salt were put in a cup of cold water kept at constant temperature and left undisturbed. eventually all the water tasted salty. this is due to?
Faith Reply
Aunt Faith,please i am thinking the dissolution here from the word "solution" exposed the grains of salt to be dissolved in the water.Thankyou
Junior
dissolution please
Junior
Aunt Faith,please i am thinking the dissolution here from the word "solution" exposed the grains of salt to be dissolved in the water.Thankyou
Junior
it is either diffusion or osmosis. just confused
Faith
due to solvation....
Pathani
what is solvation pls
Faith
water molecule surround the salt molecules . solute solute attraction break in the same manner solvent solvent interaction also break. as a result solute and solvent attraction took place.
Pathani
okay thanks
Faith
my pleasure
Pathani
what is solvation pls
Faith
water act as a solvent and salt act as solute
Pathani
okay thanks
Faith
its ok
Pathani
due to solvation....
Pathani
water molecule surround the salt molecules . solute solute attraction break in the same manner solvent solvent interaction also break. as a result solute and solvent attraction took place.
Pathani
what is magnetism
Eze Reply
physical phenomena arising from force caused by magnets
Mohammad
is the phenomenon of attracting magnetic substance like iron, cobalt etc.
Faith
what is heat
John Reply
Heat is a form of energy where molecules move
saran
Can you please help me with some questions
Janet Reply
topic-- question
Salman
I know this is unrelated to physics, but how do I get the MCQs and essay to work. they arent clickable.
Jake Reply
20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of a monobasic acid HA and 20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of NaOH are mixed in a calorimeter and a temperature rise of 274K is observed. If the heat capacity of the calorimeter is 160J/K, calculate the enthalpy of neutralization of the acid.(SHCw=4.2J/g/K) Formula. (ms*cs+C)*T
Lilian Reply
why is a body moving at a constant speed able to accelerate
Lilian Reply
20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of a monobasic acid HA and 20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of NaOH are mixed in a calorimeter and a temperature rise of 274K is observed. If the heat capacity of the calorimeter is 160J/K, calculate the enthalpy of neutralization of the acid.(SHCw=4.2J/g/K) Formula. (ms*cs+C)*T
Lilian
because it changes only direction and the speed is kept constant
Justice
Why is the sky blue...?
Star Reply
It's filtered light from the 2 forms of radiation emitted from the sun. It's mainly filtered UV rays. There's a theory titled Scatter Theory that covers this topic
Mike
A heating coil of resistance 30π is connected to a 240v supply for 5min to boil a quantity of water in a vessel of heat capacity 200jk. If the initial temperature of water is 20°c and it specific heat capacity is 4200jkgk calculate the mass of water in a vessel
fasawe Reply
A thin equi convex lens is placed on a horizontal plane mirror and a pin held 20 cm vertically above the lens concise in position with its own image the space between the undersurface of d lens and the mirror is filled with water (refractive index =1•33)and then to concise with d image d pin has to
Azummiri Reply
Be raised until its distance from d lens is 27cm find d radius of curvature
Azummiri
what happens when a nuclear bomb and atom bomb bomb explode add the same time near each other
FlAsH Reply
A monkey throws a coconut straight upwards from a coconut tree with a velocity of 10 ms-1. The coconut tree is 30 m high. Calculate the maximum height of the coconut from the top of the coconut tree? Can someone answer my question
Fatinizzah Reply
v2 =u2 - 2gh 02 =10x10 - 2x9.8xh h = 100 ÷ 19.6 answer = 30 - h.
Ramonyai
why is the north side is always referring to n side of magnetic
sam Reply
Practice Key Terms 6

Get the best College physics course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask