# Reducing Errors(Edexcel International A Level Physics)

Author

Katie M

Expertise

Physics

## Reducing Errors

• Reducing errors in an experiment is vital for obtaining more accurate results
• Even if the experimental result is close to the true value, there are always potential limitations of experimental methods such as the presence of random errors
• Random errors cannot be completely removed but their effect can be reduced by taking as many repeats as possible and using the average of the repeats
• There are always opportunities to identify limitations of the procedure, some common examples include:
• Parallax error when reading scales
• Not using a fiducial marker (eg. when measuring the time period of a pendulum using a stopwatch)
• Not repeating measurements to reduce random errors
• Not checking for zero errors to reduce systematic errors
• The equipment not working properly or not checking beforehand with small tests
• Equipment with poor precision and resolution (eg. using a ruler over a micrometer)
• Difficult to control variables (eg. the temperature of the classroom)
• Unwanted heating effects eg. in circuits

• Parallax error is minimised by reading the value on a scale only when the line of sight is perpendicular to the scale readings (i.e.. at eye level)
• Examples of where parallax error is common are:
• Determining the volume of liquid
• Making sure two objects are aligned
• Reading the temperature from a thermometer
• If it makes it easier, use a marker to help where possible

Reading the value of the needle head-on (left image) looks different to reading it from the right (right image). This is parallax error

• A fiducial marker is a useful tool to act as a clear reference point, such as when measuring the time period of a pendulum using a stopwatch
• This improves the accuracy of a measurement of periodic time by:
• Making timings by sighting the pendulum as it passes the fiducial marker
• Sighting the pendulum as it passes the fiducial marker at its highest speed. The pendulum swings fastest at its lowest point and slowest at the top of each swing

A fiducial marker is used to mark the centre of the oscillation of the pendulum

• Zero errors must be checked for in both digital and analogue instruments
• E.g., If there is no current through the circuit, an ammeter must read 0 A
• The common way to reduce unwanted heating effects in circuits is to turn off the power supply in between readings
• As the temperature of a component increases, so does its resistance (e.g., in wires). This will affect the experiment and produce an error in your final result

#### Worked example

A student wants to determine the radius of a wire for an experiment to calculate its Young Modulus. They measure the radius using a ruler from one part of the wire.

Discuss ways in which the student can reduce the error in this reading.

1. Comment on the instrument used

• Since the radius of a wire is on the order of < 1 mm, and has a circular cross section, a micrometer screw gauge should have been used instead

2. Comment on the method

• The student did not take any repeat readings
• They should take between 3-5 repeat readings for each value of the radius from the micrometer

3. Suggest improvements to the method

• The experiment assumes the wire is uniform the whole way through (i.e. has the same radius)
• This can be checked by measuring the radius at different points on the wire

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