## WHat is the uncertainty in a metre rule??

This method of uncertainty calculation is correct, but it holds for calculating the uncertainty when using different rulers (sensors in general). In this case, the maximum uncertainty is 1mm. This is because in the first reading you could be off by -0.5 mm and in the second reading it could be off by +0.5 mm.
 agree with you banerjeerupak... this is more like a treatment of observational error

 The uncertainty in an analog scale is equal to half the smallest division of the scale. If your meter scale has divisions of 1 mm, then the uncertainty is 0.5 mm
This I agree with as it conforms to standards/calibration lab practice.

 Quote by Dickfore Neither. You align the left end with exactly the zero of the meter scale. There is only uncertainty with the right end, which does not necessarily fall onto a division of the meter scale.
This is just wrong, because both opposing statements are incomplete and provide a false impression of linear measurement.

I suggest you get hold of a good (engineering) metrology textbook.

There are two types of standards identified.

End standards.
Length standards used in standards and equipment calibration labs are end standards.

Line standards which you are referring to.

A cheap ruler from a toyshop has only line standards.

An engineering workshop or drawing office standard ruler has one end standad (zero) and one line standard - the scale.
I have both types.
 Given a specimen of thin sheet material, known to be between 3 and 5mm thick.....what would you, as a scientist, quote its thickness using a steel, engineering rule with smallest scale divisions of 1mm? What would you give as the uncertainty that would be acceptable in the world of science communication.

 Given a specimen of thin sheet material, known to be between 3 and 5mm thick.....what would you, as a scientist, quote its thickness using a steel, engineering rule with smallest scale divisions of 1mm? What would you give as the uncertainty that would be acceptable in the world of science communication
Let us say that you measured your sheet or block as 3mm or 30mm or 300mm, with an uncertainty of half a millimetre (0.50mm).

This means that the expected value falls between 2.50 and 3.49 mm , 29.5 and 30.49 or 299.5 and 300.49.

As you say this is a range of 1mm , but we do not call this an uncertainty of 1mm.

This is a similar situation to the RMS value of voltage in electricity, which has a peak and peak to peak value of twice the peak.

 Quote by truesearch Given a specimen of thin sheet material, known to be between 3 and 5mm thick.....what would you, as a scientist, quote its thickness using a steel, engineering rule with smallest scale divisions of 1mm? What would you give as the uncertainty that would be acceptable in the world of science communication.
The thing is, you can do better than the information that the thickness is between 3-5 mm by measuring with such a ruler.
 I do not see the analogy with rms....peak....this is a mathematical relationship not a matter of uncertainty. If you could expand on this I would be interested. I think that what I wrote does mean an uncertainty in measurement of +/- 1mm (+/- 0.5mm if you want to split hairs). I work by the guidline of +/- 1 scale division....... I have no choice.... an exam board, no less, requires this of students.

Mentor
 Quote by truesearch When using a measuring a scale you are not advised/supposed to "push it a bit". You are better off, and more credible, if you recognise the limitations of the scale. If the divisions are 1mm then anything between divisions is a guess.... maybe an educated guess because we would all say which half of the division we are guessing in.
You can determine the quality of your educated guess. Something close to 1/2 half of the scale would be equivalent to random guessing between the marks. As you do not guess randomly, your uncertainty is smaller. An uncertainty of 1 scale would provide an upper limit for random guessing (and not a typical deviation).

When you relise what measurements are used for, being able to measure length greater than 100mm to within 1mm represents better than 1% uncertainty..... In science this would be considered an excellent degree of accuracy.... there is no necessity to measure better than 1% in the vast majority of cases.[/QUOTE]
That really depends on the measurement. If you want to build any high-tech product with moving parts, 1% is way too much. If you try to dig tunnels with 1% accuracy, everything longer than 100m is a mess. And I think the length of the LHC tunnel (27km) is known with an uncertainty of some micrometers.
 By measuring it! If the sheet is smooth enough, then there are the following values that you might get: 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, each with an uncertainty ±0.5 mm. You may ask how we can estimate 3.5, 4.5 mm on a ruler with 1 mm divisions. You can judge if the length is closest to 3.0, to 4.0, or is closest to the midpoint 3.5 mm, for example. This is how you choose between these three values. Then, when reporting 3.5 ± 0.5 mm, for example, it means that you expect the length to be between 3.0 mm and 4.0 mm. This is an interval that is half as wide than your initial assumption for the length! Thus, you did better.
 That is brilliant Dickfore..... I did hint that if splitting hairs was important I would go with +/- 0.5mm but there is no indication in what you have given that it could ever be better than that. For me it is a matter of no importance +/-1mm or +/-0.5mm is the same principle. I will stick with +/- 1 scale division. There is no way anyone could say +/- 0.1mm PS I wont do it, but it would not be difficult to make up a string of numbers that would show an answer between 4.0 and 5 mm or any other number I wanted to be important... I will stick with +/- 1 scale division. It would be difficult to come up with a string of measurements that would take us out ofthat range.

 If you could expand on this I would be interested.
Happily.

The standard mains voltage in Europe is 230 volts. This has a peak voltage of 325 volts and a peak to peak value of 650 volts. This means that the voltage varies 325 volts above and below the zero ± if you like.

But you can never ever apply or measure 635 volts across a pair of terminals
The most you can obtain is 325.

This is because the ± means plus or minus not plus and minus. It can never be both at once.

Now apply this to the measurement process.

1) You should be able to decide whether the measurement point is between 1 & 2, 2 & 3 or 3 & 4.

Let us say it is between 2 and 3. This is an uncertainty of 1

So to the left and right of your measurement point you have scale markings 2 and 3.

2) You should be able to estimate whether the measurement point is closer to 2, 2.5 or 3. This cuts the uncertainty in half.

So if you can read to the nearest division (2 or 3) the uncertainty is 1

If you can read to the nearest half division the uncertainty is 0.5

Does this help?

 Quote by truesearch There is no way anyone could say +/- 0.1mm
Of course! If that was the case, we might as well have divided our scale on marks 0.1 mm apart!

The "1/2 divisor rule" is trying to extract as much as possible from an analog scale.

For digital instruments however, the uncertainty is ±1 of the smallest displayed digit.

 Quote by Studiot Let us say it is between 2 and 3. This is an uncertainty of 1
No, the uncertainty is one half of the length of the interval, in this case (3-2)/2 = 0.5.
 sorry studiot....that is not an error or uncertainty in measurement.
 Truesearch I have no idea what you mean. Dickfore. If the result could be reported as 2 or 3 that is an uncertainty of 1.
 I am concerned when I read in post 6 (a PF Mentor) that measurements can be made to within +/- 0.1mm using a mm scale.

 Tags metre rule, uncertainity