# Error Propagation

- Page ID
- 4961

# Automatic Error Propagation With Mathematica

There is an "Application Library" for *Mathematica* called *Experimental Data Analyst (EDA)*. It offers a number of tools for the analysis of experimental data. This document discusses one set of tools in *EDA* which provide the ability to automatically propagate experimental errors.

First we will need to load the *EDA* library. In the following command the `In[1]:=`

is the prompt from *Mathematica*; you will not type that part. Also, in the command there are **no** apostrophes ', but two graves `.

`In[1]:= `

**Needs["EDA`"]**

## Simple Calculations

In order to alert *Mathematica* to the fact that we want to do calculations including error propagation, we need to wrap the value and the error in a

construct:**Datum**

`In[2]:= `

**x = Datum[ {1.51, 0.03} ]**

Out[2]= Datum[ {1.51, 0.03} ]

This tells *Mathematica* to interpret

as a variable with value 1.51 and error 0.03. **x***Mathematica* has echoed the value of

back to the screen with **x**`Out[2]= Datum[ {1.51, 0.03} ]`

.

We similarly define a variable

:**y**

`In[3]:= `

**y = Datum[ {3.75, 0.08} ]**

Out[3]= Datum[ {3.75, 0.08} ]

Now we can combine

and **x**

using all the standard arithmetic operations. For example:**y**

`In[4]:= `

**x + y**

Out[4]= Datum[{5.26, 0.085}]

Thus (1.51 ± 0.03) + (3.75 ± 0.08) is (5.260 ± 0.085), which you can easily verify by hand.

Similarly:

`In[5]:= `

**x - y**

Out[5]= Datum[{-2.24, 0.085}]

In[6]:= **x * y **

Out[6] = Datum[{5.66, 0.17}]

In[7]:= **x / y**

Out[7]= Datum[{0.403, 0.012}]

In *Mathematica*

gives **a^b**

to the power **a**

. This case is handled too:**b**

`In[8]:= `

**x^3**

Out[8]= Datum[{3.44, 0.21}]

is the square root operator:**Sqrt**

`In[9]:= `

**Sqrt[x]**

Out[9]= Datum[{1.229, 0.012}]

You can also use virtually every transcendental function, such as

(sine), **Sin**

(cosine), **Cos**

(natural logarithm), etc.**Log**

`In[10]:= `

**Log[x]**

Out[10]= Datum[{0.412, 0.02}]

Say you have a number of different value,error pairs that you wish to combine. The

construct handles this case. In the examples below we will "recycle" the variables **Data**

and **x**

. You should also notice that in the definition of **y**

and **x**

the value,error pairs are surrounded by curly braces **y**

, and the whole list of these is also surrounded by another pair of curly braces.**{}**

`In[11]:= `

**x = Data[ {17.3, .4}, {0.034, 0.0005}, {123, 9} ]**

Out[11]= Data[{17.3, 0.4}, {0.034, 0.0005}, {123, 9}]

In[12]:= **y = Data[ {23.5, .7}, {0.123, 0.0014}, {412, 15} ] **

Out[12]= Data[{23.5, 0.7}, {0.123, 0.0014}, {412, 15}]

In[13]:= **x + y **

Out[13]= Data[{40.8, 0.81}, {0.157, 0.0015}, {535., 17.}]

In[14]:= **x * y **

Out[14]= Data[{407., 15.}, {0.004182, 0.000078}, {50700., 4100.}]

can handle all the cases that **Data**

can.**Datum**

## Complex Calculations

Although the

and **Datum**

constructs work well for simple calculations, imagine you are attempting something more complex such as:**Data**

**2 x^2 / z - y z / x**

As discussed in the *First Year Physics Laboratory Manual*, such a combination requires that one takes the partial derivatives of the expression with respect to

, **x**

and **y**

, multiply each derivative by the corresponding error in the variable, and combine these terms in quadrature, i.e. the square root of the sum of the squares. The **z**

and **Datum**

constructs are fairly clever, but not clever enough to do this.**Data**

However, *EDA* supplies a routine

that does all the steps described above. For example:**CombineWithError**

`In[15]:= `

**x = {17.3, .4}, {0.034, 0.0005}, {123, 9} **

Out[15]= {17.3, 0.4}, {0.034, 0.0005}, {123, 9}

In[16]:= **y = {23.5, .7}, {0.123, 0.0014}, {412, 15}**

Out[16]= {23.5, 0.7}, {0.123, 0.0014}, {412, 15}

In[17]:= **z = {11.3, .8}, {.345, .023}, {75, 11} **

Out[17]= {11.3, 0.8}, {0.345, 0.023}, {75, 11}

In[18]:= **CombineWithError[ 2 x^2 / z - y z / x ]**

Out[18]= {37.6, 6.1}, {-1.24, 0.12}, {150., 130.}

Of course,

can handle simple cases too. Here we repeat the first calculation we did above in the **CombineWithError****Simple Calculations** section, which was adding 1.51 ± 0.03 to 3.75 ± 0.08:

`In[19]:= `

**x = {1.51, 0.03}**

Out[19]= {1.51, 0.03}

In[20]:= **y = {3.75, 0.08} **

Out[20]= {3.75, 0.08}

In[21]:= **CombineWithError[x + y]**

Out[21]= {5.26, 0.085}

There is one small caveat in using this routine. We can use the

and **Datum**

constructs directly without defining variables such as **Data**

and **x**

:**y**

`In[22]:= `

**Datum[{1.51, 0.03}] + Datum[{3.75, 0.08}]**

Out[22]= Datum[{5.26, 0.085}]

must contain the actual symbols so that it knows how to take the partial derivatives of the expression. Thus the following command generates an error message and fails:**CombineWithError**

`In[23]:= `

**CombineWithError[ {1.51, 0.03} + {3.75, 0.08} ] **

CombineWithError::unequallength: The number of datapoints in the variables are not all equal or an unexpected specification of variable names was encountered.

Out[23]= $Failed