Rounding errors could make certain stopwatches pick wrong race winners


The figure demonstrates how rounding mistake of the type seen in stopwatches triggers the loss of proportion in a mathematical video game. Credit: David A. Faux

As the Summer Olympics approach, the world will move its focus to image surfaces and races figured out by simple split seconds. Obtaining such split-second measurements counts on effortlessly rounding a raw time taped by a stop-watch or electronic timing system to a sent time.


Researchers at the University of Surrey discovered certain stopwatches dedicate rounding errors when transforming raw times to last sent times. In American Journal of Physics, by AIP Publishing, David Faux and Janet Godolphin detail a series of computer system simulations based upon treatments for transforming raw race times for screen.

Faux was motivated when he experienced the problem firsthand while offering at a swim satisfy. While assisting input times into the computer system, he saw a big part of times they inputted were rounded to either the closest half-second or complete 2nd.

“Later, when the frequencies of the digit pairs were plotted, a distinct pattern emerged,” he stated. “We discovered that the distribution of digit pairs was statistically inconsistent with the hypothesis that each digit pair was equally likely, as one would expect from stopwatches.”

Stopwatches and electronic timing systems utilize quartz oscillators to determine time periods, with each oscillation determined as 0.0001 seconds. These times are then processed for screen to 0.01 seconds, for instance, to the general public at a sporting location.

Faux and Godolphin set to work mimicing approximately 3 million race times representing swimmers of any ages and capabilities. As anticipated, the raw times suggested each split second had the very same opportunity of being a race time. For example, there was 1% opportunity a race time ended in either 0.55 seconds or 0.6 seconds.

When they processed raw times through the basic screen regimen, the consistent circulation vanished. Most times were properly shown.

Where rounding errors took place, they typically led to modifications of one one-hundredth of a 2nd. One raw time of 28.3194 was transformed to a shown time of 28.21.

“The question we really need to answer is whether rounding errors are uncorrected in electronic timing systems used in sporting events worldwide,” Faux stated. “We have so far been unable to unearth the actual algorithm that is used to translate a count of quartz oscillations to a display.”

The scientists gathered more than 30,000 race times from swimming competitors and will examine if anomalous timing patterns appear in the collection, which would recommend the capacity for rounding errors in significant sporting occasions.


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More details:
David A. Faux et al, The drifting point: Rounding mistake in timing gadgets, American Journal of Physics (2021). DOI: 10.1119/10.0003919

Provided by
American Institute of Physics

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Rounding errors could make certain stopwatches pick wrong race winners (2021, July 21)
obtained 21 July 2021
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