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Diffraction Grating Lab: Uncertainty Calculation

September 21, 2016

The conditions for maximum intensity of the light passing through a diffraction grating is given by the
formula
n = dsin

(1)

We note that every variable in the equation, experimentally, is measured independently. Hence, we need
to make sure that the error is calculated by adding all other errors in quadrature. We modify equation 1
to get:
dsin
n
Then, we take the total differential error of lambda:
s






n 2
sin 2
d 2
+
+
=

d
n
sin
=

(2)

(3)

Now, n
n = 0 as there is no error in the order. Also, if functions are involved in error calculations, then
we say for a function y = f (x)
y = x f 0 (x)

(4)

sin = x cos

(5)

Sub (5) (3), we get:

s

d
d

2


+

cos
sin

2
(6)

Multiplying through by , we get that the absolute error/uncertainty for the wavelength of the light
passed through the diffraction grating is:
s



d 2
cos 2
=
+
(7)
d
sin
It is very important that is in radians and not degrees. This is mainly due to the fact that is
isolated from a trigonometric function and by convention, we use radians for such quantities in these
situations.