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This Significant Figures Calculator calculates the number of significant figures (sig fig), or digits, that a number contains and displays which figures are significant. Significant figures, or digits, are the values in a number that can be counted on to be accurate.
However, with all these measurement tools discussed above, the proper significant digits must be adhered to. Now that you know the importance of significant figures, let's go over the rules for deciding which digits in a number are significant and which are insignificant.
To use this calculator, a user simply enters in a number for which he wants to find the number of significant figures in the number and which digits of the number are significant. After the number is entered, the user clicks the 'Find Number of Significant Digits' button. Significant figures are an important aspect of doing calculations in both chemistry and physics.
5) Trailing zeroes in a number not containing a decimal point are not significant (150 has 2 significant figures).
Note: Rule 5 is controversial and some teachers or professors will report that trailing zeroes in a number without a decimal point are significant. When adding or subtracting numbers, the result must have a certain number of decimal places. This is because 9.0 has the least number of decimal places, which is one, and thus our answer can only contain one decimal place. When multiplying or dividing numbers, the result must have a certain number of significant figures. This is because 2.00 has the last number of significant figures, and thus our answer can only contain three significant figures.
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This page is designed to be viewed with a standards-compliant browser such as Firefox, Opera or Safari. The numerical values we deal with in science (and in many other aspects of life) represent measurements whose values are never known exactly.
The purpose of this unit is to help you understand why this happens, and show you what to do about it. 157900 (the significant digits are underlined here) implies that the population is believed to be within the range of about 157850 to about 157950.
The value 158000 implies that the population is likely between about 157500 and 158500, or 158000±500.
This illustrates an important point: the concept of significant digits has less to do with mathematics than with our confidence in a measurement. The purpose in rounding off is to avoid expressing a value to a greater degree of precision than is consistent with the uncertainty in the measurement.


It is important to understand that the number of significant digits in a value provides only a rough indication of its precision, and that information is lost when rounding off occurs.
If you are rounding off to n significant digits, then the least significant digit is the nth digit from the most significant digit.The least significant digit can be a zero.
If the first non-significant digit is less than 5, then the least significant digit remains unchanged.
If the first non-significant digit is greater than 5, the least significant digit is incremented by 1.
Students are sometimes told to increment the least significant digit by 1 if it is odd, and to leave it unchanged if it is even. In a case such as this, you should look at the implied uncertainties in the two values, and compare them with the uncertainty associated with the original measurement. Observed values should be rounded off to the number of digits that most accurately conveys the uncertainty in the measurement. Usually, this means rounding off to the number of significant digits in in the quantity; that is, the number of digits (counting from the left) that are known exactly, plus one more.
When this cannot be applied (as in the example above when addition of subtraction of the absolute uncertainty bridges a power of ten), then we round in such a way that the relative implied uncertainty in the result is as close as possible to that of the orbserved value. It is clear that neither option is entirely satisfactory; rounding to 3 significant digits leaves the answer too precisely specified, whereas following the rule and rounding to 2 digits has the effect of throwing away some precision. The above example is intended to point out that the rounding-off rules, although convenient to apply, do not always yield the most desirable result. In addition or subtraction, look for the term having the smallest number of decimal places, and round off the answer to the same number of places. The last of the examples shown above represents the very common operation of converting one unit into another. The excellent Significant figures tutorial by David Dice allows you to test your understanding as you go along.
Make sure you thoroughly understand the following essential ideas which have been presented above. Give an example of a measurement whose number of significant digits is clearly too great, and explain why. State the purpose of rounding off, and describe the information that must be known to do it properly. Carry out a simple calculation that involves two or more observed quantities, and express the result in the appropriate number of significant figures. An analytical balance can measure to a thousandth of a gram, so it can have up to 4 significant digits.
It shows how accurate a number is, based on the number of significant digits present in the number. Significant figures allow a reader to know how precise certain calculations are and how much of a variation there may be in an answer.


The number of decimal places is determined by the original quantity with the least number of decimal places and thus determines the equation’s accuracy. The number of significant figures is determined by the original quantity with the least number of significant figures. The first one expresses a quantity that cannot be known exactly– that is, it carries with it a degree of uncertainty. In a case such as this, there is no really objective way of choosing between the two alternatives. Suppose, however, that you are simply told that an object has a length of 0.42 cm, with no indication of its precision.
Before we set them out, let us agree on what to call the various components of a numeric value. One wonders if this reflects some idea that even numbers are somehow “better” than odd ones!
Since there are equal numbers of even and odd digits, incrementing only the one kind will keep this kind of error from building up. In this case, it could be argued that rounding to three digits is justified because the implied relative uncertainty in the answer, 0.6%, is more consistent with those of the two factors. Certainly not the second one, because it probably comes from a database which contains one record for each voter, so the number is found simply by counting the number of records.
Warm bodies?), how can we account for the minute-by minute changes that occur as people are born and die, or move in and move away? These precisions are comparable, so the rounding-off rule has given us a reasonable result. To better reflect this fact, one might list the population (in an atlas, for example) as 157,900 or even 158,000. The absolute uncertainty in the observed value is 0.1 g, so the value itself is known to about 1 part in 100, or 1%. An alternative would be to bend the rule and round off to two significant digits, yielding 4.0 g. The precision of any numeric answer calculated from this value is therefore limited to about the same amount. This range is 0.02 g below that associated with the orginal measurement, and so rounding off has introduced a bias of this amount into the result. However, if several values that were rounded in this way are combined in a calculation, the rounding-off errors could become significant.



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