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001 - Terminology

# 001 - Terminology

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discussion of mathematical comparators used in physics
discussion of mathematical comparators used in physics

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02/07/2013

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# Comparison: Is something hotter or colder; moving faster or slower?

Comparison of quantity forms the most
rudimentary of phenomenology,

2 1 is there a net negative or positive charge?
;
3.2 which object is faster/hotter/colder?
x y
x y π
< > ¹ ¦ (

` ´
(
> <
) ¹ ¸ ¸
(1.1)

splitting up into qualitative regimes 2 3
;
of different types of behaviour; vs. 2 1
C C
x y
T T T T x y
≤ ≤ ( ¹ ¦

` ´
(
≤ > ≥ ≥
) ¹ ¸ ¸
(1.2)

0.01 0.0001 Unsuitable for affirming statistical hypotheses, e.g., confirming Higgs boson
;
1 20 Suitable for intuitive grasp of physical picture, e.g., is it a SHO with corrections?
x y
x y
>> >> ¹ ¦

` ´

<< <<
) ¹ ¸
(
(
¸
(1.3)

Orders of magnitude: what about ~ vs. <
ɶ
vs. >
ɶ
? You’re going to use them! First consider ~,

1
~ ; 1~ 2; 100 ~ 300; 1~ 9; 1 ~ 10; 1000 ~ 300; x y y = (1.4)

Grey area: when two numbers are “not all that different”: 1 and 5. A factor of 5 is large, but it is not an order of
magnitude. This sometimes arises in practice.

Example: specific heat of Fermi gas: ratio of leading term vs. next leading term is of order
2
( / )
B F
k T E .

1 3 2 1 3 3 1 2 2
100 K 1 1
, , , , , 2 500 K 25
; [fermion #-density]; 100 K; / 500 K;
... ( / ) ( / ) / ~ ( / ) ~ ( ) ;
B F F B
V F V F V F B B F B F V F V F B F
k T E n T E k
C C C k n k T E k T E C C k T E π
<< = = =
= + + = ⋅ + → = O
(1.5)

Example: consider another quantity,
1 2
... Q Q Q = + + ; you could have
2 1 1 100 ?? 1
500 ?? 5
/ ~ ( ) Q Q = . Then, you can’t
use “order of magnitude reasoning”. Then, conclusions
1
hinge upon accuracy of a measurement.

ɶ
vs. >
ɶ
: they mean “less or of the order of”; in essence, these symbols are the respective
opposites of ≫ and ≪ (note the reversed-order). Example: you could have,

0 0 1 1 1
10 1 2 ~10 , 0.1 10 ~10 10 10
− −
= < = < =
ɶ ɶ
(1.6)

Approximately equal: Finally: let’s think about the symbol ≈ (more restrictive than above),
; ; ; x y x y z z x z y ≈ → − << < <
ɶ ɶ
(1.7)

Caution: common misconception is the use of 0 x ≈ . Untrue. Suppose
5
10 x

= . The problem is that you have
infinite orders of magnitude
7 18 1234897 910234098234
10 ,10 ,10 ,10 ,...,10 0
− − − − −∞
= between x and 0. Instead, you are
supposed to write 0 x → .

Example: proton vs. neutron mass:
27
2 1.67 10
p
m kg

= × vs.
27
4 1.67 10
n
m kg

= × , so:
p n p
m m m − << .

Proportionality: this is old hat,

2 1 2
1
, , , , , 2
( / ) ; / ; ; [not useful...]
V F B B F V F V F B F V F V F B
C k n k T E C T C k T E C n C k π ≈ ⋅ → ∝ ∝ ∝ ∝ ← (1.8)

Warning: In extracting the dependence of a physical quantity on some parameter, be careful: apparently-
different factors may depend on the same parameter. Example: consider a system with varying temperature, but

1
Again: conclusions are in the eye of the beholder; when things are so close, behavior changes “noticeably”, and “noticeability” is a
subjective term.
fixed N (particle-number) vs. fixed µ (chemical potential). For the former case,
/ 2 1 / 2
,
d d
F V F
E n C n

∝ → ∝ ,
while for the latter
1
, F V F
E C n µ = → ∝ .

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