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Re: [Phys-l] Sig figs

The article has an entire section entitled "A Modest Proposal", this is what I was referring to with the use of the word "proposal". This seemed to me as a partway specific suggestion that doesn't go as far as but perhaps addresses the most egregious of issues. This is the "proposal" for which I was soliciting opinion. I have read your uncertainty website pages and greatly appreciate its existence. We reference it in our calculus based course laboratory manual's discussion of uncertainty.

The section titled "A Less Modest Proposal" is mostly a dodge to avoid really discussing representations of uncertainty; but at least acknowledges that there is much more to the subject.



Joel Rauber, Ph.D 
Professor and Head of Physics
Department of Physics
South Dakota State University
Brookings, SD 57007
605.688.5428 (w)
605.688.5878 (fax)

-----Original Message-----
From: [mailto:phys-l-] On Behalf Of John Denker
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 8:44 AM
To: Forum for Physics Educators
Subject: Re: [Phys-l] Sig figs

On 10/14/2010 09:12 AM, Rauber, Joel wrote:
John — I am curious as to your opinions regarding the Journal of
Chemical Education

article that you provided us. Do you agree whole heartedly with the
proposal of what to teach in the article? Agree with some
reservations? Would change the proposal? Etc.

Proposal? What proposal? I do not find that word in the article
anywhere. As to roundoff methods, several are considered, all of
which are found wanting.

As to the more general question, as is usually the case, the article
makes several points, some of which I agree with more than others.
*) I agree that the sig figs rules one finds in the textbooks are
*) I agree that students often do figure this out, sometimes in
the first week of class, sometimes later.
*) I agree that this undermines the relationship of trust between
student and teacher.
*) I agree that the students sometimes get rather snarky about it.
*) As for "proposals", I would fault the article for not providing
specific, constructive proposals for handling the underlying issues
-- roundoff
-- representation of uncertainty
-- propagation of uncertainty

If that doesn't answer the question, please ask a more specific

Also, if you really want to know what I think about the subject, you can
Forum for Physics Educators