Systematic error

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Systematic errors are biases in measurement which lead to the situation where the mean of many separate measurements differs significantly from the actual value of the measured attribute. All measurements are prone to systematic errors, often of several different types. Sources of systematic error may be imperfect calibration of measurement instruments (zero error), changes in the environment which interfere with the measurement process and sometimes imperfect methods of observation can be either zero error or percentage error. For example, consider an experimenter taking a reading of the time period of a pendulum swinging past a fiducial mark:If his stop-watch or timer starts with 1 second on the clock then all of his results will be off by 1 second (zero error).If the experimenter repeats this experiment twenty times (starting at 1 second each time), then there will be a percentage error in the calculated average of his results; the final result will be slightly larger than the true period.Distance measured by radar will be systematically overestimated if the slight slowing down of the waves in air is not accounted for. Incorrect zeroing of an instrument leading to a zero error is an example of systematic error in instrumentation.

Systematic errors may also be present in the result of an estimate based on a mathematical model or physical law. For instance, the estimated oscillation frequency of a pendulum will be systematically in error if slight movement of the support is...
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