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Units

The International System of Units (abbreviated SI from

the French Le Système International d’Unités) is the modern

form of the metric system and is generally a system devised

around the convenience of the number ten. It is the world's

most widely used and oldest system of measurement, both

in everyday commerce and in science.

The SI was developed in 1960 from the old metre-kilogram-

second (mks) system, rather than the centimeter-gram-

second (cgs) system, which, in turn, had a few variants.

Because the SI is not static, units are created and definitions

are modified through international agreement among many

nations as the technology of measurement progresses, and

as the precision of measurements improve.

countries do not even maintain official definitions of any

other units. A notable exception is the United States, which

continues to use customary units in addition to SI. In the

United Kingdom, conversion to metric units is government

policy, but the transition is not quite complete. Those

countries that still recognize non-SI units (e.g., the US) have

redefined their traditional non-SI units in terms of SI units.

System of Units as their primary or sole system of

measurement: Liberia, Myanmar and the United States.

Realization of units

It is important to distinguish between the definition of a unit

and its realization. The definition of each base unit of the SI

is carefully drawn up so that it is unique and provides a

sound theoretical basis upon which the most accurate and

reproducible measurements can be made. The realization of

the definition of a unit is the procedure by which the

definition may be used to establish the value and associated

uncertainty of a quantity of the same kind as the unit. A

description of how the definitions of some important units

are realized in practice is given on the BIPM website.

with no numerical factor other than the number 1.[5] The

coherent SI derived unit of resistance, the ohm, symbol Ω,

for example, is uniquely defined by the relation

Ω = m2·kg·s−3·A−2, which follows from the definition of the

quantity electrical resistance. However, any method

consistent with the laws of physics could be used to realize

any SI unit.

History

The metric system was conceived by a group of scientists

(among them, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, who is known as

the "father of modern chemistry") who had been

commissioned by Louis XVI of France to create a unified and

rational system of measures. After the French Revolution,

the system was adopted by the new government. On August

1, 1793, the National Convention adopted the new decimal

"metre" with a provisional length as well as the other

decimal units with preliminary definitions and terms. On April

7, 1795 (Loi du 18 germinal, an III) the terms "gramme" and

"kilogramme" replaced the former terms "gravet" (correctly

"milligrave") and "grave". On December 10, 1799 (a month

after Napoleon's coup d'etat), the metric system was

definitively adopted in France.

variations, whose use has spread around the world, to

replace many traditional measurement systems. At the end

of World War II a number of different systems of

measurement were still in use throughout the world. Some of

these systems were metric-system variations, whereas

others were based on customary systems. It was recognized

that additional steps were needed to promote a worldwide

measurement system. As a result the 9th General

Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), in 1948,

asked the International Committee for Weights and

Measures (CIPM) to conduct an international study of the

measurement needs of the scientific, technical, and

educational communities.

decided that an international system should be derived from

six base units to provide for the measurement of

temperature and optical radiation in addition to mechanical

and electromagnetic quantities. The six base units that were

recommended are the metre, kilogram, second, ampere,

degree Kelvin (later renamed the Kelvin), and the candela. In

1960, the 11th CGPM named the system the International

System of Units, abbreviated SI from the French name: Le

Système international d'unités. The seventh base unit, the

mole, was added in 1971 by the 14th CGPM.

Future development

International System of Units; for electrical applications, in

addition, IEC 60027 has to be taken into account. As of 2008,

work is proceeding to integrate both standards into a joint

standard Quantities and Units in which the quantities and

equations used with SI are to be referred as the

International System of Quantities (ISQ).[8]

found at Brian W. Petley International Union of Pure and

Applied Physics I.U.P.A.P. - 39 (2004).

Units

together with a set of prefixes. The units of SI can be divided

into two subsets. There are seven base units: Each of these

base units represents, at least in principle, different kinds of

physical quantities. From these seven base units, several

other units are derived. In addition to the SI units, there is

also a set of non-SI units accepted for use with SI.

SI base units

metre m length

kilogram kg mass

second s time

original unit. All multiples are integer powers of ten. For

example, kilo- denotes a multiple of a thousand and milli-

denotes a multiple of a thousandth; hence there are one

thousand millimetres to the metre and one thousand meters

to the kilometre. The prefixes are never combined: a

millionth of a kilogram is a milligram not a microkilogram.

deca hect mega tera zetta yotta

Name kilo- giga- peta- exa-

- o- - - - -

Symb

Multiples da h k M G T P E Z Y

ol

Facto 10 1

0 10 102 103 106 109 1012 1015 1018 1021 1024

r

deci centi milli micr nano pico femt atto zept yocto

Name

- - - o- - - o- - o- -

Subdivisi Symb

d c m µ n p f a z y

ons ol

−1 −1

Facto 10 −1 −2 −3 −6 −9 10 −15 10

0 10 10 10 10 10 2 10 8 10−21 10−24

r

SI writing style

• Symbols are written in upright (Roman) type (m for

metres, l for litres), so as to differentiate from the italic

type used for variables (m for mass, l for length). By

consensus of international standards bodies, this rule is

applied independent of the font used for surrounding

text.[10]

• Symbols for units are written in lower case, except for

symbols derived from the name of a person. For

example, the unit of pressure is named after Blaise

Pascal, so its symbol is written "Pa", whereas the unit

itself is written "Pascal". All symbols of prefixes larger

than 103 (kilo) are also uppercase.

o The one exception is the litre, whose original

symbol "l" is unsuitably similar to the numeral "1"

or the uppercase letter "i" (depending on the

typeface used), at least in many English-speaking

countries. The American National Institute of

Standards and Technology recommends that "L"

be used instead, a usage which is common in the

US, Canada and Australia (but not elsewhere). This

has been accepted as an alternative by the CGPM

since 1979. The cursive ℓ is occasionally seen,

especially in Japan and Greece, but this is not

currently recommended by any standards body.

For more information, see Litre.

• The SI rule is that symbols of units are not pluralized,

for example "25 kg" (not "25 kgs").[10]

o The American National Institute of Standards and

Technology has defined guidelines for American

users of the SI.[11][12] These guidelines give

guidance on pluralizing unit names: the plural is

formed by using normal English grammar rules, for

example, "henries" is the plural of "henry". The

units lux, hertz, and siemens are exceptions from

this rule: They remain the same in singular and

plural. Note that this rule applies only to the full

names of units, not to their symbols.

• A space separates the number and the symbol; e.g.,

"2.21 kg", "7.3×102 m2", "22 K".[13][14] This rule explicitly

includes the percent sign. Exceptions are the symbols

for plane angular degrees, minutes and seconds

(°, ′ and ″), which are placed immediately after the

number with no intervening space.

• Spaces may be used as a thousands separator

(1 000 000) in contrast to commas or periods

(1,000,000 or 1.000.000) in order to reduce confusion

resulting from the variation between these forms in

different countries. In print, the space used for this

purpose is typically narrower than that between words

(commonly a thin space).

• Any line-break inside a number, inside a compound unit

or between number and unit should be avoided, but, if

necessary, the latter option should be used.

• The 10th resolution of CGPM in 2003 declared that "the

symbol for the decimal marker shall be either the point

on the line or the comma on the line." In practice, the

decimal point is used in English and the comma in most

other European languages.

• Symbols for derived units formed from multiple units by

multiplication are joined with a space or centre dot (·),

for example "N m" or "N·m".[15]

• Symbols formed by division of two units are joined with

a solidus (⁄), or given as a negative exponent. For

example, the "metre per second" can be written "m/s",

"m s−1", "m·s−1" or only one solidus should be used;

i.e., "kg·m ·s " is preferable to "kg/m/s2", and

−1 −2

type the / character provided on computer keyboards,

which in turn produces the Unicode character U+002F,

which is named solidus but is distinct from the Unicode

solidus character, U+2044.

• In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean language computing

(CJK), some of the commonly-used units, prefix-unit

combinations, or unit-exponent combinations have

been allocated predefined single characters taking up a

full square. Unicode includes these in its CJK

Compatibility and Letterlike Symbols subranges for

back compatibility, without necessarily recommending

future usage.

• When writing dimensionless quantities, the terms 'ppb'

(parts per billion) and 'ppt' (parts per trillion) are

recognized as language-dependent terms, since the

value of billion and trillion can vary from language to

language. SI, therefore, recommends avoiding these

terms.[16] However, no alternative is suggested by the

International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM).

Spelling variations

deka, meter, and liter, respectively.[17]

• In some English-speaking countries, the unit ampere is

often shortened to amp (singular) or amps (plural) in

informal writing as well as on many electrical

appliances. Secs may sometimes be seen instead of s

or seconds.

reference to water. Since a cube with sides of 1 dm has

volume of 1 dm3, which is 1 L and, when filled with water,

has a mass of 1 kg, water has an approximate specific

gravity of 1 kg/L, which is equal to 1 g/cm3 and 1 t/m3, and

will freeze at 0C at 1 atmosphere of pressure.

the density of water can change with temperature; the

actual definition is based on a specific platinum-iridium

cylinder held in a vault at the BIPM in Sèvres, France.

Cultural issues

of economy and everyday commerce was based to some

extent on the lack of customary systems in many countries

to adequately describe some concepts, or as a result of an

attempt to standardize the many regional variations in the

customary system. International factors also affected the

adoption of the metric system, as many countries increased

their trade. For use in science, it simplifies dealing with very

large and small quantities, since it lines up so well with the

decimal numeral system.

from the seven SI base units (metre, kilogram, second,

ampere, Kelvin, mole, and candela) combined with the SI

prefixes. In some cases these deviations have been

approved by the BIPM.[18] Some examples include:

(d) — in use besides the SI second, and are specifically

accepted for use according to table 6.

• The year is specifically not included but has a

recommended conversion factor.

• The Celsius temperature scale; Kelvin’s are rarely

employed in everyday use.

• Electric energy is often billed in kilowatt-hours instead

of megajoules.

• The nautical mile and knot (nautical mile per hour) used

to measure travel distance and speed of ships and

aircraft (1 International nautical mile = 1852 m or

approximately 1 minute of latitude). In addition to

these, Annex 5 of the Convention on International Civil

Aviation permits the "temporary use" of the foot for

altitude.

• Astronomical distances measured in astronomical units,

parsecs, and light-years instead of, say, petametres (a

light-year is about 9.461 Pm or about 9 461 000 000

000 000 m).

• Atomic scale units used in physics and chemistry, such

as the ångström, electron volt, atomic mass unit and

barn.

• Some physicists prefer the centimetre-gram-second

(CGS) units, with their associated non-SI electric units.

• In some countries the informal cup measurement has

become 250 ml. Likewise, a 500 g "metric pound" is

used in many countries. Liquids, especially alcoholic

ones, are often sold in units whose origins are historical

(for example, pints for beer and cider in glasses in the

UK — although pint means 568 ml; champagne in

Jeroboams in France).

• A metric mile of 10 km is used in Norway and Sweden.

The term metric mile is also used in some English

speaking countries for the 1500 m foot race.

• In the US blood glucose measurements are recorded in

milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL); in Canada, Australia,

New Zealand, Oceania and Europe, the standard is

millimole per litre (mmol/L) or mM (millimolar).

• Blood pressure is measured in mmHg instead of Pa.

definitions over the past 200 years, as experts have tried

periodically to find more precise and reproducible methods,

does not affect the everyday use of metric units. Since most

non-SI units in common use, such as the US customary units,

are nowadays defined in SI units, any change in the

definition of the SI units results in a change of the definition

of the older units, as well.

CANDELA

The candela is the luminous intensity, in a given direction, of

a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency

540×1012 hertz and that has a radiant intensity in that

direction of 1/683 watt per steradian.

MOLE

The mole is the amount of substance of a system which

contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in

0.012 kilogram of carbon 12; its symbol is “mol”.

SECOND

currently defined as the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of

the radiation corresponding to the transition between the

two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133

atom.

temperature of 0 K (absolute zero), and with appropriate

corrections for gravitational time dilation. The ground state

is defined at zero magnetic field. The second thus defined is

consistent with the ephemeris second, which was based on

astronomical measurements.

KELVIN

The Kelvin (symbol: K) is a unit increment of temperature

and is one of the seven SI base units. The Kelvin scale is a

thermodynamic (absolute) temperature scale where

absolute zero, the theoretical absence of all thermal energy,

is zero (0 K). The Kelvin scale and the Kelvin are named after

the Irish physicist and engineer William Thomson, 1st Baron

Kelvin (1824-1907), who wrote of the need for an “absolute

thermometric scale”.

from Kelvin to Kelvin

Celsius [°C] = [K] − 273.15 [K] = [°C] + 273.15

1 K = 1 °C = 1.8 °F = 1.8 °R

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