# Systematic Error

Systematic Error

Systematic errors are biases in measurement which lead to the situation where the mean of many separate measurements differs significantly from the actual value of the measured attribute. All measurements are prone to systematic errors, often of several different types. Sources of systematic error may be imperfect calibration of measurement instruments (zero error), changes in the environment which interfere with the measurement process and sometimes imperfect methods of observation can be either zero error or percentage error. For example, consider an experimenter taking a reading of the time period of a pendulum swinging past a fiducial mark: If their stop-watch or timer starts with 1 second on the clock then all of their results will be off by 1 second (zero error). If the experimenter repeats this experiment twenty times (starting at 1 second each time), then there will be a percentage error in the calculated average of their results; the final result will be slightly larger than the true period. Distance measured by radar will be systematically overestimated if the slight slowing down of the waves in air is not accounted for. Incorrect zeroing of an instrument leading to a zero error is an example of systematic error in instrumentation.

Systematic errors may also be present in the result of an estimate based on a mathematical model or physical law. For instance, the estimated oscillation frequency of a pendulum will be systematically in error if slight movement of the support is not accounted for.

Systematic errors can be either constant, or be related (e.g. proportional or a percentage) to the actual value of the measured quantity, or even to the value of a different quantity (the reading of a ruler can be affected by environment temperature). When they are constant, they are simply due to incorrect zeroing of the instrument. When they are not constant, they can change sign. For instance, if a thermometer is affected by a proportional systematic error equal to 2% of the actual temperature, and the actual temperature is 200°, 0°, or −100°, the measured temperature will be 204° (systematic error = +4°), 0° (null systematic error) or −102° (systematic error = −2°), respectively. Thus, the temperature will be overestimated when it will be above zero, and underestimated when it will be below zero.

Constant systematic errors are very difficult to deal with, because their effects are only observable if they can be removed. Such errors cannot be removed by repeating measurements or averaging large numbers of results. A common method to remove systematic error is through calibration of the measurement instrument.

In a statistical context, the term systematic error usually arises where the sizes and directions of possible errors are unknown.

### Other articles related to "systematic error, errors, error":

Systematic Error - Systematic Versus Random Error
... Measurement errors can be divided into two components random error and systematic error ... Random error is always present in a measurement ... Random errors show up as different results for ostensibly the same repeated measurement ...
Measurement Uncertainty - Random Errors and Systematic Errors
... There are two types of measurement error, systematic error and random error ... A systematic error (an estimate of which is known as a measurement bias) is associated with the fact that a measured value contains an offset ... In general, a systematic error, regarded as a quantity, is a component of error that remains constant or depends in a specific manner on some other quantity ...

### Famous quotes containing the words error and/or systematic:

Theoretically, I grant you, there is no possibility of error in necessary reasoning. But to speak thus “theoretically,” is to use language in a Pickwickian sense. In practice, and in fact, mathematics is not exempt from that liability to error that affects everything that man does.
Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914)

Chinese civilisation is so systematic that wild animals have been abolished on principle.
Aleister Crowley (1875–1947)