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Homework Help: Calorimetry quantifying sources of error

  1. Aug 16, 2014 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    I am conducting an experiment to determine the specific heat of a certain metal using a typical calorimetry experiment (using a polystyrene cup). I have been asked to list sources of error and
    quantify them in relation to the total error in the experiment - I have thought up some errors, but have no idea on how to quantify them?

    2. Relevant equations


    3. The attempt at a solution

    For example one source of error may be that there is not enough insulation so there is some heat loss. How can I possibly quantify this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Homework Helper

    You will have to make educated guesses, using your understanding of physics.

    Start by classifying the error - i.e. lack of insulation would introduce a systematic error.
    If your calculation assumed all the heat went to the sample, then that will bias your final number either high or low. You may have a model for heat loss which will help you narrow it down.

    They key is that you only need to quantify the error "in relation to the total error in the experiment", you don't need an exact number.

    So do you have reason to believe that the systematic error introduced makes up a large or small proportion of the overall error?

    You will have better luck quantifying statistical errors - there is one for each measurement you use.

    Are the systematic errors you have identified large or small compared with the overall statistical error?
    (I suspect the author means the overall statistical error when talking about the total error.)
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