## Significant digits? Take II

Subject: Significant digits? Take II
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 15:09:30 -0500

A quick elaboration on my previous message: I explained myself poorly,
though the sum of the answer was still correct. What I meant was that
_removing_ the digit would make a difference in the meaning, not _changing_
the number. So for example, 0.020 has only two significant figures (because
removing the final zero makes no difference in the meaning); in contrast,
0.002 has three significant figures (because removing any of the zeros to
the right of the decimal would dramatically change the meaning). So John's
still right, and I need to be more careful about my wording. <g>

Note: Apparently, there are two schools of thought on this. The
wrong-thinking school considers placeholder zeros to be nonsignificant.
That's not the way I was taught, and my colleague with a PhD in statistics
agreed with me. So there! <g>

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

would be indistinguishable from magic--referring to a possible encounter
with an alien civilization--but if a science journalist had one
responsibility above all else, it was to keep Clarke's Law from applying to
human technology in human eyes."--Greg Egan, "Distress"

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