An approximation (represented by the symbol ≈) is an inexact representation of something that is still close enough to be useful. Although approximation is most often applied to
numbers, it is also frequently applied to such things as mathematical functions, shapes, and physical laws.
Approximations may be used because incomplete
informationprevents use of exact representations. Many problems in physics are either too complex to solve analytically, or impossible to solve. Thus, even when the exact representation is known, an approximation may yield a sufficiently accurate solution while reducing the complexity of the problem significantly.
physicistsoften approximate the shape of the Earthas a sphereeven though more accurate representations are possible, because many physical behaviours—e.g. gravity—are much easier to calculate for a sphere than for less regular shapes.
The problem consisting of two or more planets orbiting around a sun has no exact solution. Often, ignoring the gravitational effects of the planets gravitational pull on each other and assuming that the sun does not move achieve a good approximation. The use of perturbations to correct for the errors can yield more accurate solutions. Simulations of the motions of the planets and the star also yields more accurate solutions.
The type of approximation used depends on the available
information, the degree of accuracy required, the sensitivity of the problem to this data, and the savings (usually in time and effort) that can be achieved by approximation.
scientific methodis carried out with a constant interaction between scientific laws (theory) and empirical measurements, which are constantly compared to one another.
The approximation also refers to using a simpler process. This model is used to make predictions easier. The most common versions of
philosophy of scienceaccept that empirical measurements are always "approximations"—they do not perfectly represent what is being measured. The history of scienceindicates that the scientific laws commonly felt to be "true" at any time in history are only "approximations" to some deeper set of laws. For example, attempting to resolve a model using outdated physical laws alone incorporates an inherent source of error, which should be corrected by approximating the quantum effects not present in these laws.
Each time a newer set of laws is proposed, it is required that in the limiting situations in which the older set of laws were tested against
experiments, the newer laws are nearly identical to the older laws, to within the measurementuncertainties of the older measurements. This is the correspondence principle.
MathematicsApproximation usually occurs when an exact form or an exact numerical number is unknown. Howeversome known form may exist and may be able to represent the real form so that no significant deviation can be found. It also is used when a number is not rational, such as the number
π, which often is shortened to 3.14, or √7 as ≈ 2.65.Numerical approximations sometimes result from using a small number of significant digits. Approximation theoryis a branch of mathematics, a quantitative part of functional analysis. Diophantine approximationdeals with approximation to real numbers by rational numbers. The symbol "≈" means "approximately equal to"; tilde (~) and the Libra sign () are common alternatives.
Orders of approximation
Successive Approximation ADC
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