Significant Figures

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Data in an experiment is comprised of certain and uncertain measurements. The digits in this data are called significant figures. This implies that all digits in a number are important; however, this is not true. Zeros that are used as placeholders after the decimal point are not significant. For example 0.0032 only has two significant figures, yet trailing zeros to the right of a decimal point are significant. So, the digit 94.00 has four significant figures. Furthermore, trailing zeroes of a whole number are not significant. So, the number 380 only has two significant figures. However, according to the Silberberg Chemistry textbook, trailing zeroes do count as significant figures. This is one instance where the course policy differs from that of the book. Nevertheless, course policy takes precedence over the textbook. All other numbers in all other circumstances are significant. When recording a measurement it is important to remember that every measurement is a comparison or estimate to a standard. Therefore, the measurement will always possess some type of random error.…show more content…
For example, 377,000g cannot be rounded to two significant figures and still be accurate. When this occurs, scientific notation is helpful.Scientific notation is the way that scientists easily handle very large numbers or very small numbers. It is comprised of two parts: the coefficient and the exponent. The coefficient is always rounded to the proper number of significant digits. While the exponent (always to a power of ten in Chemistry) is inserted to make sure that the exact placement of the decimal point for the accurate full number is known. Therefore, 377,000 to two significant figures would be 3.8x10^5g. The standard way of writing a number in scientific notation is always to have only one digit to the left of the decimal. This one digit cannot be
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