Technical correctness

Subject: Technical correctness
From: Richard Mateosian <srm -at- C2 -dot- ORG>
Date: Tue, 27 Dec 1994 07:31:11 -0800

>However, everyone probably has a different notion of what
>"technically correct" means. I have no problems
>truncating the number pi to 3.1415

This is a good example of the difference between precision and accuracy.

It's accurate to say that pi equals 3.14.

It's more precise but inaccurate to say that pi equals 3.1415. The correct
approximation of pi to four decimal places is 3.1416, since pi equals 3.14159...

You would have to struggle to find a case in which saying pi equals 3.1415
is clearer than saying pi equals 3.1416. Yet it might be clearer, more
readable, and perfectly appropriate to say that pi equals 3.14.

We need to choose a level of precision appropriate to what we're trying to
say. I don't think we have a choice about accuracy. ...RM

Richard Mateosian Technical Writer in Berkeley CA srm -at- c2 -dot- org

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