<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
A = πr 2 = 3 . 1415927 . . . × 1 . 2 m 2 = 4 . 5238934 m 2 size 12{A=πr rSup { size 8{2} } = left (3 "." "1415927" "." "." "." right ) times left (1 "." 2" m" right ) rSup { size 8{2} } =4 "." "5238934"" m" rSup { size 8{2} } } {}

is what you would get using a calculator that has an eight-digit output. But because the radius has only two significant figures, it limits the calculated quantity to two significant figures or

A = 4 . 5 m 2 , size 12{A" = "4 "." 5" m" rSup { size 8{2} } } {}

even though π size 12{π} {} is good to at least eight digits.

2. For addition and subtraction: The answer can contain no more decimal places than the least precise measurement . Suppose that you buy 7.56-kg of potatoes in a grocery store as measured with a scale with precision 0.01 kg. Then you drop off 6.052-kg of potatoes at your laboratory as measured by a scale with precision 0.001 kg. Finally, you go home and add 13.7 kg of potatoes as measured by a bathroom scale with precision 0.1 kg. How many kilograms of potatoes do you now have, and how many significant figures are appropriate in the answer? The mass is found by simple addition and subtraction:

+ 1 7.56 0 kg = 15.2 kg . - 1 6.052 kg = 15.2 kg . + 13.7 00 kg + 15.208 kg = 15.2 kg . alignl { stack { size 12{7 "." "56"`"kg"} {} #size 12{ - 6 "." "052"`"kg"} {} # size 12{ { {+"13" "." 7`"kg"} over {"15" "." "208"`"kg"} } ="15" "." 2`"kg" "." } {}} } {}

Next, we identify the least precise measurement: 13.7 kg. This measurement is expressed to the 0.1 decimal place, so our final answer must also be expressed to the 0.1 decimal place. Thus, the answer is rounded to the tenths place, giving us 15.2 kg.

Significant figures in this text

In this text, most numbers are assumed to have three significant figures. Furthermore, consistent numbers of significant figures are used in all worked examples. You will note that an answer given to three digits is based on input good to at least three digits, for example. If the input has fewer significant figures, the answer will also have fewer significant figures. Care is also taken that the number of significant figures is reasonable for the situation posed. In some topics, particularly in optics, more accurate numbers are needed and more than three significant figures will be used. Finally, if a number is exact , such as the two in the formula for the circumference of a circle, c = r size 12{c=2πr} {} , it does not affect the number of significant figures in a calculation.

Perform the following calculations and express your answer using the correct number of significant digits.

(a) A woman has two bags weighing 13.5 pounds and one bag with a weight of 10.2 pounds. What is the total weight of the bags?

(b) The force F size 12{F} {} on an object is equal to its mass m size 12{m} {} multiplied by its acceleration a size 12{a} {} . If a wagon with mass 55 kg accelerates at a rate of 0 . 0255  m/s 2 size 12{0 "." "0255"" m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} , what is the force on the wagon? (The unit of force is called the newton, and it is expressed with the symbol N.)

(a) 37.2 pounds; Because the number of bags is an exact value, it is not considered in the significant figures.

(b) 1.4 N; Because the value 55 kg has only two significant figures, the final value must also contain two significant figures.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Phet explorations: estimation

Explore size estimation in one, two, and three dimensions! Multiple levels of difficulty allow for progressive skill improvement.



  • Accuracy of a measured value refers to how close a measurement is to the correct value. The uncertainty in a measurement is an estimate of the amount by which the measurement result may differ from this value.
  • Precision of measured values refers to how close the agreement is between repeated measurements.
  • The precision of a measuring tool is related to the size of its measurement increments. The smaller the measurement increment, the more precise the tool.
  • Significant figures express the precision of a measuring tool.
  • When multiplying or dividing measured values, the final answer can contain only as many significant figures as the least precise value.
  • When adding or subtracting measured values, the final answer cannot contain more decimal places than the least precise value.

Questions & Answers

what is a half life
Mama Reply
the time taken for a radioactive element to decay by half of its original mass
what is radioactive element
Half of the total time required by a radioactive nuclear atom to totally disintegrate
radioactive elements are those with unstable nuclei(ie have protons more than neutrons, or neutrons more than protons
in other words, the radioactive atom or elements have unequal number of protons to neutrons.
state the laws of refraction
state laws of reflection
Why does a bicycle rider bends towards the corner when is turning?
When do we say that the stone thrown vertically up wards accelerate negatively?
Give two importance of insulator placed between plates of a capacitor.
Macho had a shoe with a big sole moving in mudy Road, shanitah had a shoe with a small sole. Give reasons for those two cases.
when was the name taken from
Biola Reply
retardation of a car
when was the name retardation taken
did you mean a motion with velocity decreases uniformly by the time? then, the vector acceleration is opposite direction with vector velocity
Atomic transmutation
Basirat Reply
An atom is the smallest indivisible particular of an element
mosco Reply
what is an atomic
Awene Reply
reference on periodic table
Titus Reply
what Is resonance?
Mozam Reply
phenomena of increasing amplitude from normal position of a substance due to some external source.
What is a black body
Amey Reply
Black body is the ideal body can absorb and emit all radiation
the emissivity of black body is 1. it is a perfect absorber and emitter of heat.
Why is null measurement accurate than standard voltmeter
Neemat Reply
that is photoelectric effect ?
Sabir Reply
It is the emission of electrons when light hits a material
is not just a material
it is the surface of a metal
what is the formula for time of flight ,maxjmum height and range
agangan Reply
what is an atom
how does a lightning rod protect a building from damage due to lightning ?
Faith Reply
due to its surface lustre but due to some factors it can corrode but not easily as it lightning surface
pls what is mirage
light rays bend to produce a displaced image of distant objects; it's an natural & optical phenomenon......
what is the dimensional formula for torque
Otto Reply
same units of energy
what is same units of energy?
M L2 T -2
it is like checking the dimension of force. which is ML2T-2
M L2 T-2
what is the significance of moment of inertia?
an object of mass 200g moves along a circular path of radius 0.5cm with a speed of 2m/s. calculate the angular velocity ii period iii frequency of the object
Faith Reply
w = 2/(0.005) period = PIE(0.005) f = 1/(PIE(0.005)) assuming uniform motion idk..
supposed the speed on the path is constant angular velocity w (rad/s) = v (m/s) : R (m) period T (s) = 2*Pi * R : v frequency f ( Hz) = 1: T
in the pole vaulter problem, how do they established that the mass is 5.00kg? where did that number come from?
-- 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?