Browse Definitions:
Definition

significant figures

The term significant figures refers to the number of important single digits (0 through 9 inclusive) in the coefficient of an expression in scientific notation . The number of significant figures in an expression indicates the confidence or precision with which an engineer or scientist states a quantity.

The table shows several examples of numbers written in standard decimal notation (first column) and in scientific notation (second column). The third column shows the number of signficant figures in the corresponding expression in the second column.

Decimal expression Scientific notation Sig. figs.
1,222,000.00 1.222 x 10 6 4
1.22200000 x 10 6 9
0.00003450000 3.45 x 10 -5 3
3.450000 x 10 -5 7
-9,876,543,210 -9.87654 x 10 9 6
-9.876543210 x 10 9 10
-0.0000000100 -1 x 10 -8 1
-1.00 x 10 -8 3

Significant figures are arrived at by rounding off an expression after a calculation is executed. In any calculation, the number of significant figures in the solution must be equal to, or less than, the number of significant figures in the least precise expression or element. Consider the following product:

2.56 x 10 67 x -8.33 x 10 -54

To obtain the product of these two numbers, the coefficients are multiplied, and the powers of 10 are added. This produces the following result:

2.56 x (-8.33) x 10 67+(-54)
= 2.56 x (-8.33) x 10 67-54
= -21.3248 x 10 13

The proper form of common scientific notation requires that the absolute value of the coefficient be larger than 1 and less than 10. Thus, the coefficient in the above expression should be divided by 10 and the power of 10 increased by one, giving:

-2.13248 x 10 14

Because both multiplicands in the original product are specified to only three significant figures, a scientist or engineer will round off the final expression to three significant figures as well, yielding:

-2.13 x 10 14

as the product.

Also see order of magnitude and scientific notation .

This was last updated in September 2005

Join the conversation

3 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

hi
Cancel
julian
Cancel
thanks po. :)
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

SearchSecurity

  • copyright

    Copyright is a legal term describing ownership of control of the rights to the use and distribution of certain works of creative ...

  • keylogger (keystroke logger or system monitor)

    A keylogger, sometimes called a keystroke logger or system monitor, is a type of surveillance technology used to monitor and ...

  • password

    A password is an unspaced sequence of characters used to determine that a computer user requesting access to a computer system is...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

  • mass notification system (MNS)

    A mass notification system is a platform that sends one-way messages to inform employees and the public of an emergency.

SearchStorage

  • CompactFlash card (CF card)

    A CompactFlash card (CF card) is a memory card format developed by SanDisk in 1994 that uses flash memory technology to store ...

  • email archiving

    Email archiving (also spelled e-mail archiving) is a systematic approach to saving and protecting the data contained in email ...

  • RAID (redundant array of independent disks)

    RAID (redundant array of independent disks) is a way of storing the same data in different places on multiple hard disks to ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • M.2 SSD

    An M.2 SSD is a solid-state drive (SSD) that conforms to a computer industry specification written for internally mounted storage...

  • NVMe (non-volatile memory express)

    NVMe (non-volatile memory express) is a host controller interface and storage protocol to enable a solid-state drive to use the ...

  • SSD RAID (solid-state drive RAID)

    SSD RAID (solid-state drive RAID) is a methodology commonly used to protect data by distributing redundant data blocks across ...

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close