The uncertainties of using a ruler and caliper

Categories: ResearchScience


The experimenters conducted a total of four mini labs. In each lab they had to find measurements dealing with different instruments such as a ruler, caliper, stopwatch, and two spring scales of different newtons. The objective in each experiment was to record and measure different objects and to also give advantages and uncertainties when dealing with different instruments. The experimenters found that each instrument comes with an uncertainty. When dealing with a ruler, the measurement can be very accurate but is not as precise as a caliper.

The caliper was the most precise instrument that the experimenters used. When recording with the stopwatch, the experimenters found that reaction time played an important role in the lab. The two spring scales came with different problems due to the fact that each one was limited in newtons. Each advantage was how accurate the instruments were.

Introduction and Background:

The experimenters assumed that if more instruments are used to measure or record an object, then their measurements should be more precise and accurate.

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The main question that they asked was, “How do we know if our measurements are precise or not?” The experimenters knew that they must need the right instruments and use more than one for each experiment. Their main concern was the precision of each of their measurements; therefore, multiple instruments were used in three out of the four labs. Method: In the first part of the lab, Rulers vs. Calipers, the experimenters were asked to compare the precision and accuracy measuring the same objects with a ruler and a caliper.

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Materials: One marble

  • One washer
  • String
  • One 8 oz styrofoam cup

Procedures: Step one: The experimenters used the ruler to measure the diameter of the marble then recorded the measurement, along with an uncertainty, and then did the same with the caliper. Step two: They used the ruler to measure the outer and inner diameter of the washer then recorded the measurement, along with an uncertainty. The experimenters used the caliper to reassure their measurements. Step three: Repeat these steps to find the thickness of the washer, the height of the cup, and the length of the string. In the second experiment, The Spring Force Scale, the experimenters learned how to calibrate a spring scale, and how to measure the mass in both grams and newtons. To calibrate the the spring scale, the experimenters adjusted the knobs on top of the scales until the plastic piece in the center reached zero.

Materials: Roll of masking Tape

  • Box of Modeling Clay
  • Single Hole Punch
  • 5 N Spring Scale
  • 10 N Spring Scale
  • Stopwatch

Procedures: Step One: The experimenters adjusted each scale as needed, until it was level with zero. Step two: The experimenters got each item and hung it freely on the 5 N spring scale. They observed how many grams it was equal to by seeing the plunger in correlation to the numbers on the scale. Step three: They wrote down how many grams, and what uncertainties they had when performing this experiment. Step four: The experimenters repeated the first few steps with the 10 N spring scale. In the third experiment, The Stopwatch, the experimenters used a stopwatch to record the time a marble fell from a constant height to the ground. The main objective of this experiment was to learn the errors and uncertainties when dealing with a stopwatch.

Materials: One Marble

Constant Drop Height (which the experimenters provided)

Procedures: Step one: The experimenters chose a constant height in which they dropped their marble from. They decided that it be a flat desktop so they can reduce mistakes. Step two: One of the experimenters became familiar with the stopwatch so that it would be easier to record the time it took to hit the ground. Step three: The other experimenter recorded each time on a table, along with the uncertainties. Step four: They dropped the marble from the constant height about five times. In the final experiment, Density of the Mass Set, the experimenters used the vernier caliper to lead them to the volume of some of the figures in the mass set, and this eventually led them to find the density.

The experimenters used the equation Density = mass/volume. The equation helped them figure out the density of the 100 g mass. Discussion: The experimenters concluded that with every thing you measure there will always be an uncertainty. Each experiment has different uncertainties. For the first lab the uncertainties included being off by a millimeter or so for the ruler. The caliper was very precise but also had a minor uncertainty with the millimeters. In the second experiment, the experimenters faced any uncertainties. For example, the two different spring scales ended with different results. The experimenters also had uncertainties with the third experiment when measuring the time that the marble fell. The biggest uncertainty was the reaction time of the experimenter. In the final experiment the main uncertainty was the equation.

The experimenters were unsure of the measurements; therefore, they were not able to get precise results. Their hypothesis was if more instruments are used to measure or record an object, then their measurements should be more precise and accurate. After all of the research and labs, the hypothesis came out to be correct. The experimenters experienced error when measuring with a caliper. The way they can change it in the future is to make sure they know how to use it before they start the experiments. What they learned throughout the whole experience is you will always encounter problems, and the only way to fix them is to keep trying unil you get the best possible answer.


  1. (2011). escience labs: Introductory physics. (Vol. 3.3). Sheridan, CO: eScience Labs, LLC. Retrieved from
  2. Caliper Ruler

Cite this page

The uncertainties of using a ruler and caliper. (2016, Apr 30). Retrieved from

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