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Significant Figures Suck—Here’s Why

Significant Figures

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Significant Figures

Cole Noss, Staff Writer

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So most of my two readers may be wondering how can this man hate numbers? It’s very simple: numbers lie. By the end of this article, I will give you not one but two scenarios on how significant figures are lying to you. Quick shoutout to Chem Mr. Gordon and Dr. Diehl for teaching me these godforsaken creatures. Ready? Let’s hit it…

First, I am going to prove that I should be dead due to significant figures. But before that, it is important to note that I am very much alive. How do I know this? Because I am typing this article. Next, 55.3 Million (55,300,000) (3 Significant Figures) people die each year (that is a fact I pulled off Wikipedia—don’t question it). Because I am only one person with one soul (shout out to Religion Mr. Gordon) I am equal to 1.00 people (3 Significant Figures). If I take my 1.00 soul and I divide that by 55.3 million people dying each year, that means I have a .00000000180% chance of dying each year. Accounting for significant figures (only 3), that means I have a 0.00% chance of being alive this year. As I have proven that I am still alive, significant figures are completely useless.

As I have said, I will use two points to prove myself right. I can fully demonstrate the 3/9 + 3/9 ≠ 6/9. It’s well known that you can divide both sides by the same number and it will remain equal. So if you divide both sides by 9 you will get 3/9 + 3/9 = 6/9. If you change that it to decimals you get 3.33 + 3.33 = 6.66 (it is important to note all of these numbers are repeating). If you only account for the 3 significant figures, then you will get an answer of 6.66. But you actually need to include all the numbers as the 6.66 is repeating. So your answer should be 6.6666666 (repeating). Because of this change in answer significant figures are pointless.

Quick Note: Many of the problems here do not adhere to logic or actually follow the rules of significant figures, so please don’t tell Chem Mr. Gordon.

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