By Colin Cooke
Realizing, designing and engaging in experiments is on the middle of technology. this article introduces the elemental ideas on which physicists may still construct an intensive experimental method of their discipline.
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Additional resources for An introduction to experimental physics
Real equipment is more complex, and which of its characteristics are most important will depend on the particular circumstances, so the following list is simply alphabetical: (a) accuracy; (b) complexity; (c) cost; (d) ease of use; (e) longevity; (f) output; (g) range; (h) reliability; (i) sensitivity. Accuracy This is a mixture of two concepts: precision and calibration. Equipment is precise if it gives the same output for a given input over the required period of time. In other words it gives reproducible results.
Reproducibility is about 3 parts in 1011. (c) The kilogram is the mass of a platinum-iridium bar kept at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris. A copy is kept at the NPL, where masses may be compared to a precision of about a microgram on a precision balance. CHARACTERISTICS OF EQUIPMENT 53 (d) The ampere is the constant current that, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross section, and placed 1 m apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2×10−7 N m−1.
But there may be systematic errors in every reading that make them all false. In order that the equipment be not only precise but accurate we also need to know that it is properly calibrated. If you use a micrometer screw gauge to measure the thickness of some object, you may obtain a precise result if the instrument has a zero error, but it will not be an accurate measurement unless you remove or allow for the error. There is still the possibility that the scale itself is not calibrated properly, but it is more difficult to investigate and correct such an error, so we will leave that to the competence of the manufacturer.