2018 BFY III Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: W18: Uncertainty Propagation in Modern Physics Lab
Abstract: Uncertainty analysis is an important skill throughout the Physics curricuium, and emphasized as a  primary objective of the Modern Physics lab course at Siena College.   The majority of the lab projects in this course are more demanding than in General Physics, and involve measurements of known constants relevant to the lecture material, i.e, "how do we know the mass of the electron?".  Estimation and propagation of measurement uncertainties are a crucial part of interpreting students' numerical results and comparing with accepted values for such physical constants.   The analysis is at the level of J.R.Taylor, An Introduction to Error Analysis, including mean and standard deviation, and/or quadrature addition and partial derivatives.  Students should be capable of understanding and applying the concepts and mathematical skills involved.

The ability to clearly identify, explain and evaluate measurement uncertainty is also part of a broader goal of improving student writing.   Modern Physics is part of the core curriculum at Siena College, and thus has a required writing component.  This lab course emphasizes writing clear, meaningful, and concise conclusions to evaluate the experimental results.  The discussion and comparison of the factors relating to experimental uncertainty help to eliminate poor writing habits, such as attributing problems with the experiment to "human error".  Students are expected to provide an estimate and brief explanation of experimental uncertainties, to propagate uncertainty values in terms of the result, to compare relative measurements uncertainties to possibly simplify the analysis, to round the uncertainty to appropriate significant figures, and ultimately to discuss the uncertainty in the result as it relates to the comparison with any known value.  The development of uncertainty propagation represents an additional step beyond the introductory graphical analysis and uncertainty identification presented in our General Physics course, and it is reinforced in several junior and senior level courses and capstone research projects.  

The workshop will demonstrate uncertainty propagation in a sample experiment such as the measurement of the speed of light or the e/m ratio for the electron.
Abstract Type: Workshop
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Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: George Hassel
Siena College
515 Loudon Road
Loudonville, NY 12211
Phone: 518 928 6440