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**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)

Fine. But what about,

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.

Now let’s think about <

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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discussion of mathematical comparators used in physics

discussion of mathematical comparators used in physics

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