# Physical Quantities

Physical Quantities
A physical quantity is a quantity that can be
measured.
A physical quantity can be divided into
a. base quantity and
b. derived quantity.
Derived Quantity
A derived quantity is a physical quantity that is
not a base quantity. It is the quantities which
derived from the base quantities through
multiplying and/or dividing them.
Example

Base Quantities
Base quantities are the quantities that cannot be
defined in term of other physical quantity.
Quantity Name of
unit
Unit
symbol
Length metre m
Mass kilogram kg
Time second s
Electric current ampere A
Thermodynamic
temperature
Kelvin K

Prefixes
Prefixes are the preceding factor used to represent very small and very large physical quantities in SI units.
Prefixes Value Standard form Symbol
Tera 1 000 000 000 000 10
12
T
Giga 1 000 000 000 10
9
G
Mega 1 000 000 10
6
M
Kilo 1 000 10
3
k
deci 0.1 10
-1
d
centi 0.01 10
-2
c
milli 0.001 10
-3
m
micro 0.000 001 10
-6

nano 0.000 000 001 10
-9
n
pico 0.000 000 000 001 10
-12
p

Measurement
Error in Measurement
1. All measurements are value of
approximation only.
Therefore, it’s a matter of how
close the measurement is to
the actual value.
2. Error is the difference between
the actual value of a quantity
and the value obtained in
measurement.

Zero error

1. A zero error arises when the measuring
instrument does not start from exactly zero.
2. Zero errors are consistently present in every
reading of a measurement.
Parallax error

1. A parallax error is an error in reading an
instrument due to the eye of the observer and
pointer are not in a line perpendicular to the
plane of the scale.
2. Parallax error can be overcome by making
sure that the position of the eye in line with
the reading to be taken.

Consistency, Accuracy and Sensitivity
Consistency/Precision
1. Consistency is the ability of an instrument in
measuring a quantity in a consistent manner
with only a small relative deviation between
2. The consistency of a reading can be indicated
by its relative deviation.
3. The relative deviation is the percentage of
mean deviation for a set of measurements and
it is defined by the following formula:

Accuracy
1. The accuracy of a measurement is how close
the measurement made is to the actual value
of the quantity of physics.
2. The measurement is more accurate if its
number of significant figures increases.
3. Table above shows that the measurement
made by a micrometer screw gauge is more
accurate than the other measuring
instruments.
4. The accuracy of a measurement can be
increased by
a. taking a number of repeat readings to
calculate the mean value of the reading.
b. avoiding the end errors or zero errors.
c. taking into account the zero and parallax
errors.
d. using more sensitive equipment such as a
Precision vs Accuracy

Not accurate
Not consistent (precise)
Not accurate
Consistent (precise)
Accurate
Not consistent (precise)
Accurate
Consistent (precise)

Sensitivity
1. The sensitivity of an instrument is its ability
to detect small changes in the quantity that
is being measured.
2. Thus, a sensitive instrument can quickly
detect a small change in measurement.
3. Measuring instruments that have smaller
scale parts are more sensitive.
4. Sensitive instruments need not necessarily be
accurate.

Measuring Instruments
Ruler
The accuracy of a metre rule is
___________.
Vernier Caliper

Taking Reading from a Vernier Calipers:
Reading of Vernier caliper
= Reading of main scale + reading of vernier scale

Zero Error
The zero error is determined by tightening the
jaws of the vernier calipers.

Micrometer Screw Gauge

Example

Main scale:
Vernier scale:

Zero Error

What is the function of the ratchet
knob?

To ensure that the vernier is always
tightened to the same tightness.
Measuring Time
1. In laboratory, time intervals are measured by
stopwatch.
2. There are two types of stopwatch:
a. the analog stopwatch (Sensitivity 0.1 s or
0.2s)
b. the digital stopwatch (Sensitivity 0.01s)
The accuracy of time measurement can be
increased by repeated measurements and taking
the average value.
Taking Reading from Analogue
Stopwatches

Reading = Minute Scale + Second Scale

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