Scientific Notation & Significant Figures

# Scientific Notation & Significant Figures | Physics Class 11 - NEET PDF Download

 Table of contents Introduction Scientific Notation What are Significant Figures? Addition and Subtraction Multiplication and Division Order of Magnitude

## Introduction

Many times in the study of chemistry, one has to deal with experimental data as well as theoretical calculations.
There are meaningful ways to handle the numbers conveniently and present the data realistically with certainty to the extent possible like:

• Scientific Notation
• Significant Figures
• Dimensional Analysis

## Scientific Notation

• Scientific Notation is a way of expressing numbers that are too big or too small to be conveniently written in decimal form.
• In which any number can be represented in form N × 10(where n is an exponent having positive or negative values and N can vary between 1 to 10).

Example: We can write 232.508 as 2.32508 × 102 in scientific notation. Similarly, 0.00016 can be written as 1.6 × 10–4.
Thus, we can write 232.508 as 2.32508 × 102 in scientific notation. Note that while writing it, the decimal had to be moved to the left by two places and the same is the exponent (2) of 10 in the scientific notation.
Similarly, 0.00016 can be written as 1.6 × 10–4. Here the decimal has to be moved four places to the right and (– 4) is the exponent in the scientific notation.

### Multiplication and Division for Exponential Numbers

• These two operations follow the same rules which are there for exponential numbers, i.e.

### Addition and Subtraction for Exponential Numbers

• For these two operations, first, the numbers are written in such a way that they have the same exponent. After that, the coefficients (digit terms) are added or subtracted as the case may be.
• Thus, for adding 6.65 × 104 and 8.95 × 103, the exponent is made the same for both numbers. Thus, we get (6.65 × 104) + (0.895 × 104).

### Examples:

Q.1. Which of the following options is not correct?
(a) 8008 = 8.008 x 103
(b) 208 = 3
(c) 5000 = 5.0 x 103
(d) 2.0034 = 4
Ans: (d)
Solution:
2.0034 = 4

Q.2. Exponential notation in which any number can be represented in the form, Nx 10here N is termed as
(a) non –digit term
(b) digit term
(c) numeral
(d) base term

Ans: (b)
Solution:
In exponential notation N × 10n, N is a number called digit term which varies between 1.000 and 9.000….

## What are Significant Figures?

It is important to understand that the way a measurement is taken affects its accuracy. For example, you could measure the length of a leaf with a ruler that had markings every centimeter (cm). In this example, illustrated below, the leaf is longer than 3 cm and shorter than 4 cm, so you might estimate that the leaf is 3.5 cm long.

On the other hand, if you measured the same leaf with a ruler that had markings every millimeter (mm), as drawn below, you can see that the end of the leaf actually falls between the markings for 3.5 and 3.6 cm (or 35 and 36 mm). Because it’s closer to the 3.5 marking, you might estimate that the leaf is 3.52 cm (or 35.2 mm) long.

Using the second ruler, it’s possible to estimate that the leaf is 3.52 cm long, but it is not possible to measure that accurately with the first ruler. In this way, the number of digits in the measured value gives us an idea of the maximum accuracy of the measurement. These are called significant digits or significant figures.

RULES FOR SIGNIFICANT FIGURES

• All non-zero numbers ARE significant. The number 33.2 has THREE significant figures because all of the digits present are non-zero.
• Zeros between two non-zero digits ARE significant. 2051 has FOUR significant figures. The zero is between a 2 and a 5.
• Leading zeros are NOT significant. They're nothing more than "place holders." The number 0.54 has only TWO significant figures. 0.0032 also has TWO significant figures. All of the zeros are leading.
• Trailing zeros to the right of the decimal ARE significant. There are FOUR significant figures in 92.00.
92.00 is different from 92: a scientist who measures 92.00 milliliters knows his value to the nearest 1/100th milliliter; meanwhile his colleague who measured 92 milliliters only knows his value to the nearest 1 milliliter. It's important to understand that "zero" does not mean "nothing." Zero denotes actual information, just like any other number. You cannot tag on zeros that aren't certain to belong there.
• Trailing zeros in a whole number with the decimal shown ARE significant. Placing a decimal at the end of a number is usually not done. By convention, however, this decimal indicates a significant zero.
For example, "540." indicates that the trailing zero IS significant; there are THREE significant figures in this value.
• Trailing zeros in a whole number with no decimal shown are NOT significant. Writing just "540" indicates that the zero is NOT significant, and there are only TWO significant figures in this value.
• Exact numbers have an INFINITE number of significant figures. This rule applies to numbers that are definitions.
For example, 1 meter = 1.00 meters
= 1.0000 meters
= 1.0000000000000000000 meters, etc.
So now back to the example posed in the Rounding Tutorial: Round 1000.3 to four significant figures. 1000.3 has five significant figures (the zeros are between non-zero digits 1 and 3, so by rule 2 above, they are significant.) We need to drop the final 3, and since 3 < 5, we leave the last zero alone. so 1000. is our four-significant-figure answer. (from rules 5 and 6, we see that in order for the trailing zeros to "count" as significant, they must be followed by a decimal. Writing just "1000" would give us only one significant figure.)
• For a number in scientific notation: N × 10x, all digits comprising N ARE significant by the first 6 rules; "10" and "x" are NOT significant. 5.02 × 104 has THREE significant figures: "5.02." "10 and "4" are not significant.
Rule 8 provides the opportunity to change the number of significant figures in a value by manipulating its form.
For example, let's try writing 1100 with THREE significant figures. By rule 6, 1100 has TWO significant figures; its two trailing zeros are not significant. If we add a decimal to the end, we have 1100., with FOUR significant figures (by rule 5.) But by writing it in scientific notation: 1.10 × 103, we create a THREE-significant-figure value.

### Addition and Subtraction

How are significant figures handled in calculations? It depends on what type of calculation is being performed. If the calculation is an addition or a subtraction, the rule is as follows: limit the reported answer to the rightmost column that all numbers have significant figures in common. For example, if you were to add 1.2 and 4.71, we note that the first number stops its significant figures in the tenths column, while the second number stops its significant figures in the hundredths column. We therefore limit our answer to the tenths column.

We drop the last digit—the 1—because it is not significant to the final answer.

The dropping of positions in sums and differences brings up the topic of rounding. Although there are several conventions, in this text we will adopt the following rule: the final answer should be rounded up if the first dropped digit is 5 or greater, and rounded down if the first dropped digit is less than 5.

## Multiplication and Division

For multiplication or division, the rule is to count the number of significant figures in each number being multiplied or divided and then limit the significant figures in the answer to the lowest count. An example is as follows:

The final answer, limited to four significant figures, is 4,094. The first digit dropped is 1, so we do not round up.

Scientific notation provides a way of communicating significant figures without ambiguity. You simply include all the significant figures in the leading number. For example, the number 450 has two significant figures and would be written in scientific notation as 4.5 × 102, whereas 450.0 has four significant figures and would be written as 4.500 × 102. In scientific notation, all significant figures are listed explicitly.

## Order of Magnitude

• Order of magnitude of a quantity is the power of 10 required to represent that quantity. This power is determined after rounding off the value of the quantity properly. For rounding off, the last digit is simply ignored if it is less than 5 and, is increased by one if it is 5 or more than 5.
• When a number is divided by 10(where x is the order of the number) the result will always lie between 0.5 and 5 i.e. 0.5 < N/10< 5

Example. Order of magnitude of the following values can be determined as follows:

(a) 49 = 4.9 × 101 » 101 \ Order of magnitude = 1

(b) 51 = 5.1 × 101 » 102 \ Order of magnitude = 2

(c) 0.049 = 4.9 × 10–2 » 10–2 \ Order of magnitude = –2

(d) 0.050 = 5.0 × 10–2 » 10–1 \ Order of magnitude = –1

(e) 0.051 = 5.1 × 10–2 » 10–1 \ Order of magnitude = –1

### ROUNDING

When doing calculations using significant figures, you will find it necessary to round your answer to the nearest significant digit. There are therefore a few rules of rounding that help retain as much accuracy as possible in the final answer.

• Complete all sequential calculations BEFORE doing any rounding, since rounding early reduces the number of significant figures available for subsequent calculations.
• If the last significant digit is followed by a 6, 7, 8, or 9, round up.
Example: 5.677, rounded to three significant digits, is 5.68
• If the last significant digit is followed by a 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4, simply drop the trailing digits.
Example: 561200, rounded to three significant digits, is 561000
• If the last significant digit is EVEN, and is followed by a 5, drop the trailing digits.
Example: 45850, rounded to three significant digits, is 45800
• If the last significant digit is ODD, and is followed by a 5, round up.
Example: 3.47588, rounded to three significant digits, is 3.48

AMBIGUOUS ZEROS
So what happens if your calculation or measurement ends in a zero? For example, what if you measured a branch that was 200 cm (not 199 or 201 cm) long? The zeros in a measured value of 200 cm in this case appear ambiguous, since it could suggest that there is only one significant digit.
One way to reduce this ambiguity is to use significant figures with scientific notation.

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## FAQs on Scientific Notation & Significant Figures - Physics Class 11 - NEET

 1. What is scientific notation?
Scientific notation is a way to express numbers that are very large or very small in a more concise and manageable format. It is written in the form of a number between 1 and 10, multiplied by a power of 10. For example, the number 500,000,000 can be written as 5 × 10^8 in scientific notation.
 2. What are significant figures?
Significant figures are the digits in a number that carry meaning or contribute to its precision. They include all the certain digits plus one uncertain or estimated digit. Significant figures are important because they indicate the precision of a measurement or calculation. For example, the number 34.56 has four significant figures.
 3. How do you perform addition and subtraction with significant figures?
When adding or subtracting numbers with significant figures, the result should be rounded to the same decimal place as the least precise number in the calculation. For example, if you are adding 3.45 and 2.1, the result should be rounded to the tenths place, giving you 5.6.
 4. How do you perform multiplication and division with significant figures?
When multiplying or dividing numbers with significant figures, the result should be rounded to the same number of significant figures as the least precise number in the calculation. For example, if you are multiplying 2.34 and 1.2, the result should be rounded to two significant figures, giving you 2.8.
 5. What is the order of magnitude in scientific notation?
The order of magnitude in scientific notation refers to the power of 10 that is multiplied by the number. It represents the approximate size of the number in terms of magnitude. For example, in the scientific notation 4.5 × 10^3, the order of magnitude is 3, indicating that the number is in the thousands range.

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