Letter | Published:

Calculations with Two Nearly Equal Quantities

Naturevolume 207page621 (1965) | Download Citation

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Abstract

A FAMILIAR experimental problem arises when two quantities of about equal magnitude are measured, and a third quantity equal to the difference between the two is to be calculated. The relative error in the calculated result can be intolerably high. An example of such a situation is the measurement of airglow radiations from the upper atmosphere in the presence of Rayleigh scattering from the lower atmosphere, where the strength of the desired signal may be small compared with that of the background. Initial measurements of airglow which we made with a simple photometer resulted in plots of calculated airglow intensity versus time with such large fluctuations that no interpretation was possible.

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  1. Lowell Technological Institute Research Foundation, Lowell, Massachusetts

    • FRANCIS T. WORRELL

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https://doi.org/10.1038/207621a0

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