$1.96\sin(149^\circ) + 1.00842\sin(203^\circ) + 0.61446\sin(285^\circ) = 0.02193075901$

But if I calculated each of the terms separately, then add them together, I get a result that is a tiny bit different.

$1.96\sin(149^\circ) = 1.009474627$

$1.00842\sin(203^\circ) = -0.3940210846$

$0.61446\sin(285^\circ) = -0.5935227832$

$1.009474627 - 0.3940210846 - 0.5935227832 = 0.0219307592$

The difference between the two answer is tiny:

$0.0219307592 - 0.02193075901 = 1.8903 \times 10^{-10}$

But I'm curious why are they different? I don't think I made an arithmetic mistake or any sort of logic mistake in my process.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is because the round off error for each term. You rounded each term so there is a little bit error at the end of each term. When you add them up, the errors accumulate. $\endgroup$ – KittyL Mar 22 '15 at 18:28

That's just rounding issues in your software ...

The main point is that, given that all numbers are encoded using a fixed maximum number of bits, every system has a smallest encodable $\epsilon > 0$ (link). Therefore all calculations involving numbers close to $\epsilon$ or whose difference is close to $\epsilon$ will generate noticeable rounding errors. Most often you just don't see them because your system is "smart enough" to hide them from you using nice-looking roundings.


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