Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Decimal places

  1. Nov 22, 2008 #1
    if i have a sqaure of length 0.200m, is its volume 0.040 or 0.0400 mcubed?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2008 #2

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    A square has no volume, only area. Do you mean a cube?
     
  4. Nov 22, 2008 #3

    HallsofIvy

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    In determining "number of significant figures" there is always an ambiguity as to whether a "0" is "significant" or just a place holder. For that reason, if "significant figures" are important it is best to use "scientific notation". Here "0.200 m" would be best written "2.00 x 10-1 m", showing clearly that there are "3 significant figures".

    If you really mean area rather than volume it would be best to write it as 4.00 x 10-2 m2, again showing clearly that there are "3 significant figures".
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2008
  5. Nov 23, 2008 #4
    sorry, i meant the area of a square, ok, so if 2.00 x 10-1 m is its length, would its area be 4.00 x 10-2 m2 or 4.0 x 10-2 m2?
     
  6. Nov 23, 2008 #5

    HallsofIvy

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    The latter: 4.00 x 10-2 mp2. Since the orginal measurement had 2 three significant figures so must the answer.

    It is better, by the way to talk about "significant figures" rather than "decimal places". The number of significant figures in the result of any calculation is the smallest number of significant figures in any number in the calculation. There is no such rule for "decimal places".
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?