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

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board)

    The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is a Congressionally-established nonprofit that assesses audits of public ...

  • cyborg anthropologist

    A cyborg anthropologist is an individual who studies the interaction between humans and technology, observing how technology can ...

  • RegTech

    RegTech, or regulatory technology, is a term used to describe technology that is used to help streamline the process of ...

SearchSecurity

  • spear phishing

    Spear phishing is an email-spoofing attack that targets a specific organization or individual, seeking unauthorized access to ...

  • supercookie

    A supercookie is a type of tracking cookie inserted into an HTTP header by an internet service provider to collect data about a ...

  • email spam

    Email spam, or junk email, is unsolicited bulk messages sent through email with commercial, fraudulent or malicious intent.

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • 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.

  • disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

    One approach to a strong disaster recovery plan is DRaaS, where companies offload data replication and restoration ...

SearchStorage

  • GlusterFS (Gluster File System)

    GlusterFS (Gluster File System) is an open source distributed file system that can scale out in building-block fashion to store ...

  • virtual memory

    Virtual memory is a memory management capability of an OS that allows a computer to compensate for physical memory shortages by ...

  • yottabyte (YB)

    A yottabyte is a measure of theoretical storage capacity and is 2 to the 80th power bytes, or, in decimal, approximately 1,000 ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive)

    A PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive) is a high-speed expansion card that attaches a computer to its peripherals.

  • SSD caching

    SSD caching, also known as flash caching, is the temporary storage of data on NAND flash memory chips in a solid-state drive so ...

  • NVDIMM (Non-Volatile Dual In-line Memory Module)

    An NVDIMM (non-volatile dual in-line memory module) is hybrid computer memory that retains data during a service outage.

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