Advertisements

Archive for June 1st, 2017

Monthly Science: Significant Figures vs. Accuracy vs. Precision, Marathon Edition

The rail trail recently sprouted white mile markers:

Rail Trail - Marathon 13 mile marker

Rail Trail – Marathon 13 mile marker

This one stood out:

Rail Trail - Marathon 13.10938 mile marker

Rail Trail – Marathon 13.10938 mile marker

Not being a marathoner, I had the vague notion a marathon should be an even number of kilometers, because it’s not an even number of miles, but nooooo it’s just an arbitrary distance everybody agreed would be about right for a good long run.

During the rest of the ride, I worked out that 1 micro mile = 5+ milli foot = 60+ milli inch, so the rightmost significant figure in that marker represents increments of, oh, a smidge under ¾ inch. Middle of the hash line marks the spot, perhaps?

I’ve seen similar markers along other courses, with varying numbers of ahem significant figures, and will not say how long it took me to recognize what it represented.

Advertisements

2 Comments