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Lab 1

Measurement: Mass, Volume and Density

Goals: The goal of this laboratory is to measure the mass and the dimensions of solids and to determine their volume and density. We will also calculate probable error in a measurement.

Theory: Mass and length represent two of the most fundamental dimensions in the physical world. Density is fundamental quantity that describes the properties of matter. The density does not depend on the shape or size of the object. The density depends on the nature of the atoms, and on the packing. Therefore, each substance has its own unique density. If the geometry of block is simple then the volume can be calculated from the linear dimensions. However, most objects found in nature are not as simple. Consider a piece of rock. Measuring the mass is still simple, but determining the volume is not possible by measuring the linear dimensions. A technique to determine the volume in such cases is to measure the volume of water displaced by it. An important aspect of learning in physics is learning to take accurate measurements and to have an estimate of the error involved in making such measurements. This will be one of the primary focuses of our experiments today. We will use the example of volume measurement to explain how to find the probable error in your measurements. Get an idea of the error in your measurements early by calculating the standard deviation. To calculate the standard deviation, take five measurements of the same quantity. Calculate the average of the measurements and the difference between each of the measurements from the average. Sum the squares of the differences and divide by the number of measurements. Take the square root and this is your standard deviation. In equation form this method looks like:


( a a) 2 i i n
a) 2


and n is the number of measurements made.

is the standard deviation, a i is a measurement, a is the average of the measurements

Apparatus: Set of metallic and wooden blocks, rock sample, ruler, dial calipers, mass balance, graph paper, glass jar, and measuring cylinder.

Caution: Be careful not to drop the mass blocks on the floor and on your fingers! Procedure:


Lift the heaviest of the two types of blocks and try to guess the mass in kilograms of each and their density ratio. Note your estimates in your journal.

2. Measure the mass of the two types of blocks using the mass balance (tabulate your measurements.)

3. Use a ruler to measure the length, height, and width of the block. To what accuracy can you measure the dimensions? Now use the calipers to measure the dimensions. Measure at three locations and note down the readings and the average. Why is this a good idea? Calculate the corresponding volumes and the average.

4. Plot each set of mass versus volume data in a separate graph. Draw the best fitting straight line through the points. This line should pass through the origin (0,0). (Why?)

5. Find the slope of the line. If you plotted mass on the vertical axis and volume on the horizontal axis, then the slope is equal to the density. Compare the density you found for the metallic block set with the densities of common substances. Can you identify the substance? How does the density ratio compare to your initial estimate?

6. Completely fill the glass beaker with water. Tie a string around the rock and gently immerse into the water in the jar. The excess water will spill over. Now remove the rock from the jar taking care that no excess water is spilled, and all the water that drips from the rock falls back into the glass jar. Using the graduated cylinder fill back the water that was lost in the glass jar. The volume of water you poured using the measuring cylinder is the volume of the rock. (Why can we say this?) (Note: 1 ml = 1 cm 3 .) Using this data determine the density of the rock-sample. To estimate the possible error, use one of the rectangular blocks of similar size scale and find its volume and density using the water displacement technique. How does it compare to the density you calculated measuring the linear dimensions?

the water displacement technique. How does it compare to the density you calculated measuring the linear