# Homework Help: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data. .

1. May 10, 2010

### imatreyu

1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

In an early set of experiments, Milikan observed that the following measure charges, among others, appeared at different times on a single oil drop. What value of elementary charge can be deduced from these data?

1) 6.563 x 10^-19 C
2) 8.204 x 10^-19 C
3) 11.50 x 10^-19 C
4) 13.13 x 10^-19 C
5) 16.48 x 10^-19 C
6) 18.08 x 10^-19 C
7) 19.71 x 10^-19 C
8) 22.89 x 10^-19 C
9) 26.13 x 10^-19 C

2. Relevant equations

I have no idea. :( Doing this graphically is NOT an option. My answer needs to be 5 significant figures.

3. The attempt at a solution
I subtract each of the answers in the manner... B-A, C-B and so on. From this, I get two distinct sets of numbers. I take the average of each set of data and get 1.62525 and 3.2665.Then I divide the 3.2665 by 1.62525 to get approximately 2. Then I divide 3.2665 by 2 and get 1.63325. . .

I have no idea why that works!!! What am I doing when I do that? It was explained to me by a friend, but I don't understand why that works or what that is doing. . .

2. May 10, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

Each charge is a multiply of elementary charge.

That means difference is also always a multiply of elementary charge.

Imagine you are given small bags with identical marbles inside. You can only weight the bags and you are asked to find mass of the single marble. Mass of each bag is a multiply of mass of a single marble, differences are also multiplies of a single marble mass. Lowest possible mass - and lowest possible difference - is that of a single marble.

3. May 10, 2010

### imatreyu

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

Thank you so much for your explanation using the marbles-- it's very informative. Therefore-- yes, I understand that every charge is a multiple of the elementary charge.

However, I'm not sure how that applies to what I wrote above. . .still. . .

4. May 10, 2010

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

You do not need to know the mass of the particles in order to find the elementary charge.

5. May 10, 2010

### imatreyu

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

My initial instinct was to use the GCF of all of the values; however none of them are integers and I imagine such an endeavour would be really challenging and hard. . . and maybe not even correct or useful. Ugh. . .

6. May 10, 2010

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

Using your numbers what is the smallest charge you detect? Are the other measured charges integral amounts of this smallest charge?Could this smallest charge be the elementary charge?

7. May 10, 2010

### imatreyu

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

Well the smallest charge is 6.563 x 10^-19 C. (Right?)
This is obviously not the elementary charge, though. . .

8. May 10, 2010

### imatreyu

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

P.S. It would help if someone could read over my Attempt at a Solution and explain why that's correct/ what that does/ why I need to do that (if that's correct). I'm so sorry about this. I'm just horribly confused here. .

9. May 10, 2010

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

6.563? In your first post you identified a charge which was one quarter of this.

10. May 10, 2010

### imatreyu

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

6.563? In your first post you identified a charge which was one quarter of this.

Really? I'm horrible at math; but isn't it that:

6.563 x 10^-19 C < 8.204 x 10^-19 C
6.563 x 10^-19 C < 11.50 x 10^-19 C
6.563 x 10^-19 C < 13.13 x 10^-19 C
6.563 x 10^-19 C <16.48 x 10^-19 C
6.563 x 10^-19 C < 18.08 x 10^-19 C
6.563 x 10^-19 C < 19.71 x 10^-19 C
6.563 x 10^-19 C < 22.89 x 10^-19 C
6.563 x 10^-19 C < 26.13 x 10^-19 C

???

11. May 10, 2010

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

As I said above you have already identified a number which is smaller than 6.563.What is this number? Does it divide into all of your results an integral number of times? Remember that there are experimental errors and that the numbers are unlikely to be exact integers.

12. May 10, 2010

### imatreyu

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

Ahh.. . I'm sorry. I just don't know what number you're referring to, and I still don't understand. Could you identify what number you're talking about? I don't see anything smaller than 6.563 x 10^-19 ... (Forgive me if this is just totally stupid, it's 2 AM where I am...and I'm a little dead.)

I really need an explanation of how the procedure I described in "Attempt at the Solution" works, if it's correct or if it's totally wrong. . . I would like to understand it. .

13. May 10, 2010

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

You referred to the number in your first post with your attempt at a solution.The smallest number you found was 1.62 times ten to the minus nineteen approximately.Stick with it a little longer imatreyu and see what happens when you divide all of your results by this smallest number

14. May 10, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Milikan's Oil Experiment - Determining elementary charge from a given set of data

You have calculated series of differences, right?

Do you see a link now?