Precision Error

The plots in this Demonstration show precision error. The formula is true for all real . To plot for various , Mathematica correctly finds numerical values very close to 0. In the plot, these infinitesimal deviations are magnified a quadrillion-fold.
Various types of machine error—round-off, precision, accumulated—have led to the loss of lives and fortunes. For example, the Patriot missile system relies on a .1 second internal clock. The binary machine considers this as a 209715/2097152 second clock. In a 1991 incident during Operation Desert Storm, after being on for 100 hours, the missile tracking timing had accumulated a .34 second error. This rendered it unable to track an incoming missile, which subsequently fell intact on a barracks and killed 28 people.


  • [Snapshot]
  • [Snapshot]
  • [Snapshot]


Patriot missile incident GAO report: http://www.fas.org/spp/starwars/gao/im92026.htm.
    • Share:

Embed Interactive Demonstration New!

Just copy and paste this snippet of JavaScript code into your website or blog to put the live Demonstration on your site. More details »

Files require Wolfram CDF Player or Mathematica.

Mathematica »
The #1 tool for creating Demonstrations
and anything technical.
Wolfram|Alpha »
Explore anything with the first
computational knowledge engine.
MathWorld »
The web's most extensive
mathematics resource.
Course Assistant Apps »
An app for every course—
right in the palm of your hand.
Wolfram Blog »
Read our views on math,
science, and technology.
Computable Document Format »
The format that makes Demonstrations
(and any information) easy to share and
interact with.
STEM Initiative »
Programs & resources for
educators, schools & students.
Computerbasedmath.org »
Join the initiative for modernizing
math education.
Step-by-Step Solutions »
Walk through homework problems one step at a time, with hints to help along the way.
Wolfram Problem Generator »
Unlimited random practice problems and answers with built-in step-by-step solutions. Practice online or make a printable study sheet.
Wolfram Language »
Knowledge-based programming for everyone.
Powered by Wolfram Mathematica © 2017 Wolfram Demonstrations Project & Contributors  |  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  RSS Give us your feedback
Note: To run this Demonstration you need Mathematica 7+ or the free Mathematica Player 7EX
Download or upgrade to Mathematica Player 7EX
I already have Mathematica Player or Mathematica 7+