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Tools (click to expand)


Learning Outcomes

  • Make measurements using typical laboratory apparatus.


  • Metre rule, micrometer, Vernier callipers
  • Mass balance
  • Scaler timer
  • Voltmeter
  • Multimeter


Distance measures how far apart two points are. It can be two separate points, such as the distance between cities, or points on an object where we would usually call it length, height, width, breadth, depth, diameter etc. Multiple measures of distance on a single object can be used to form areas, volumes, capacities and so on. Depending on what is being measured, we use a different tool:

Metre rules (a.k.a. metre sticks) measure lengths on the order of a metre.
Micrometers are used to measure very small lengths on the order of millimetres or less.
Vernier callipers are used to measure round shapes like coins and cylinders.
Opisometers are used to measure short curved lengths.
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Mass measures how much matter is in an object or how much inertia an object has. We tend to usually use the same instrument called a mass balance to measure mass, though they can be calibrated to different scales and given different names (e.g. weighing scales):

Mass balances come in different shapes and sizes, but are all the same type of instrument.
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Spring balances use Hooke's Law to convert force into displacement.
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Time measures how long an event took to happen or how long it was between two events. Many devices like clocks and watches can tell time, but we usually need timers to measure a particular length of time.

Scaler timers measure long and short times and can be activated by electrical signals.
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Energy can't always be measured directly: we usually calculate it based on other measurements like mass and velocity for kinetic energy. We can measure electrical energy supplied to an experiment by using a joulemeter however:

Joulemeters measure power or energy flowing through them.
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We usually call devices that measure temperature thermometers. We will look at different ways of measuring temperature later in the thermometric properties section, but for now, here are some common laboratory thermometers:Back to top.


There are a number of quantities we can measure in electricity and the devices we use tend to be similar. Voltmeters, ammeters, ohmmeters all look very much the same, but have different internal components and wirings that allow them to measure each quantity. Alternatively, we often use multimeters, which can be used to measure several different quantities depending on how they are set up.

Voltmeters can measure any scale of voltage, but any individual meter will probably measure within an order of magnitude.
Galvanometers are a type of ammeter used to measure small currents.
Multimeters have a variety of settings that let them measure different quantities and different scales depending on their set up.
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Last modified: 2017-12-06, 20:58:19