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Random Errors

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Suppose that I make N measurements of a certain quantity x and mymeasurement errors are random. Then I would report my final answeras as:

average

standard deviation

Where:

As an example, suppose we measured the period of a pendulum over 5 cyclesfor a given length and we made 5 such measurements. Below I show the average and standard deviation for the measurement of the period :

So I would report my measurement of the period for this specificlength as 2.07 ± 0.02 s.

You can use Excel to find the mean (average) and standard deviationfor numbers in a row (say B2 to B6). The functions are:

AVERAGE(B2:B6)

STDEV(B2:B6)

Suppose a given set of measurements is indeed random and the setis characterized by a certain average or mean: m and a certain standard deviation: s. We assume that the distribution of measurementsfor x will follow a Gaussian distribution given by:

The constant in front of the exponential guarantees that the integralof f(x) from minus to plus infinity is 1; that is - the probability of gettingsome value is 100%. This function allows us to estimate the probabilitythat another measurement of x will deviate from the meanby somespecified amount.

The integral under the Gaussian distributionfrom (m-s) to (m+s) is the probability thatanother measurement will fall within 1 s of themean. According to the table below that is (100-31.7)% = 68.3%. Similarly, the probabilitythat a measurement is within 2 s of the meanis 95%.