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You are on page 1of 45

"CGS" redirects here. For other uses, see CGS (disambiguation).

For a topical guide to this subject, see Outline of the metric system.

The centimetre–gram–second system of units (abbreviated CGS or cgs) is a variant of the metric

system based on the centimetre as the unit of length, the gram as the unit of mass, and

the second as the unit of time. All CGS mechanical units are unambiguously derived from these

three base units, but there are several different ways of extending the CGS system to

cover electromagnetism.

The CGS system has been largely supplanted by the MKS system based on the metre, kilogram,

and second, which was in turn extended and replaced by the International System of Units (SI). In

many fields of science and engineering, SI is the only system of units in use but there remain certain

subfields where CGS is prevalent.

In measurements of purely mechanical systems (involving units of length,

mass, force, energy, pressure, and so on), the differences between CGS and SI are straightforward

and rather trivial; the unit-conversion factors are all powers of 10 as 100 cm = 1 m and 1000 g = 1

kg. For example, the CGS unit of force is the dyne which is defined as 1 g·cm/s2, so the SI unit of

force, the newton (1 kg·m/s2), is equal to 100,000 dynes.

On the other hand, in measurements of electromagnetic phenomena (involving units of charge,

electric and magnetic fields, voltage, and so on), converting between CGS and SI is more subtle. In

fact, formulas for physical laws of electromagnetism (such as Maxwell's equations) need to be

adjusted depending on which system of units one uses. This is because there is no one-to-one

correspondence between electromagnetic units in SI and those in CGS, as is the case for

mechanical units. Furthermore, within CGS, there are several plausible choices of electromagnetic

units, leading to different unit "sub-systems", including Gaussian units, "ESU", "EMU",

and Heaviside–Lorentz. Among these choices, Gaussian units are the most common today, and in

fact the phrase "CGS units" is often used to refer specifically to CGS-Gaussian units.

Contents

[hide]

1History

2Definition of CGS units in mechanics

o 2.1Definitions and conversion factors of CGS units in mechanics

3Derivation of CGS units in electromagnetism

o 3.1CGS approach to electromagnetic units

o 3.2Alternate derivations of CGS units in electromagnetism

o 3.3Various extensions of the CGS system to electromagnetism

o 3.4Electrostatic units (ESU)

3.4.1ESU notation

o 3.5Electromagnetic units (EMU)

3.5.1EMU notation

o 3.6Relations between ESU and EMU units

o 3.7Practical cgs units

o 3.8Other variants

4Electromagnetic units in various CGS systems

5Physical constants in CGS units

6Advantages and disadvantages

7See also

8References and notes

9General literature

History[edit]

The CGS system goes back to a proposal in 1832 by the German mathematician Carl Friedrich

Gauss to base a system of absolute units on the three fundamental units of length, mass and time.

Gauss chose the units of millimetre, milligram and second.[1] In 1874, it was extended by the British

physicists James Clerk Maxwell and William Thomson with a set of electromagnetic units and the

selection of centimetre, gram and second and the naming of C.G.S.[2]

The sizes of many CGS units turned out to be inconvenient for practical purposes. For example,

many everyday objects are hundreds or thousands of centimetres long, such as humans, rooms and

buildings. Thus the CGS system never gained wide general use outside the field of science. Starting

in the 1880s, and more significantly by the mid-20th century, CGS was gradually superseded

internationally for scientific purposes by the MKS (metre–kilogram–second) system, which in turn

developed into the modern SI standard.

Since the international adoption of the MKS standard in the 1940s and the SI standard in the 1960s,

the technical use of CGS units has gradually declined worldwide, in the United States more slowly

than elsewhere. CGS units are today no longer accepted by the house styles of most scientific

journals, textbook publishers, or standards bodies, although they are commonly used in

astronomical journals such as The Astrophysical Journal. CGS units are still occasionally

encountered in technical literature, especially in the United States in the fields of material

science, electrodynamics and astronomy. The continued usage of CGS units is most prevalent in

magnetism and related fields, as the primary MKS unit, the tesla, is inconveniently large, leading to

the continued common use of the gauss, the CGS equivalent.

The units gram and centimetre remain useful as prefixed units within the SI system, especially for

instructional physics and chemistry experiments, where they match the small scale of table-top

setups. However, where derived units are needed, the SI ones are generally used and taught

instead of the CGS ones today. For example, a physics lab course might ask students to record

lengths in centimetres, and masses in grams, but force (a derived unit) in newtons, a usage

consistent with the SI system.

In mechanics, the CGS and SI systems of units are built in an identical way. The two systems differ

only in the scale of two out of the three base units (centimetre versus metre and gram versus

kilogram, respectively), while the third unit (second as the unit of time) is the same in both systems.

There is a one-to-one correspondence between the base units of mechanics in CGS and SI, and the

laws of mechanics are not affected by the choice of units. The definitions of all derived units in terms

of the three base units are therefore the same in both systems, and there is an unambiguous one-to-

one correspondence of derived units:

(definition of velocity)

(pressure defined as force per unit area)

Thus, for example, the CGS unit of pressure, barye, is related to the CGS base

units of length, mass, and time in the same way as the SI unit of

pressure, pascal, is related to the SI base units of length, mass, and time:

1 unit of pressure = 1 unit of force/(1 unit of length)2 = 1 unit of mass/(1 unit of length·(1 unit

of time)2)

1 Ba = 1 g/(cm·s2)

1 Pa = 1 kg/(m·s2).

Expressing a CGS derived unit in terms of the SI base units, or vice

versa, requires combining the scale factors that relate the two

systems:

1 Ba = 1 g/(cm·s2) = 10−3 kg/(10−2 m·s2) = 10−1 kg/(m·s2) = 10−1 Pa.

Definitions and conversion factors of CGS units

in mechanics[edit]

CGS Equiva

Sym CGS unit Definit lent

Quantity

bol unit abbrevi ion in SI

ation units

1/100

length, centim =

L, x cm of metr

position etre 10−2 m

e

1/1000

=

mass m gram g of kilog

10−3 kg

ram

secon 1

time t s =1s

d second

centim

etre =

velocity v per cm/s cm/s 10−2 m/

secon s

d

=

acceleration a gal Gal cm/s2 10−2 m/

s2

=

force F dyne dyn g·cm/s2

10−5 N

2

erg pe

r g·cm2/s =

power P erg/s

secon 3

10−7 W

d

g/(cm· =

pressure p barye Ba

s2) 10−1 Pa

=

dynamic vis g/(cm·

μ poise P 10−1 Pa

cosity s)

·s

=

kinematic vi

ν stokes St cm2/s 10−4 m2/

scosity

s

kayser = 100

wavenumber k cm−1[3] cm−1

(K) m−1

electromagnetism[edit]

CGS approach to electromagnetic units[edit]

The conversion factors relating electromagnetic units in the

CGS and SI systems are made more complex by the

differences in the formulae expressing physical laws of

electromagnetism as assumed by each system of units,

specifically in the nature of the constants that appear in these

formulae. This illustrates the fundamental difference in the

ways the two systems are built:

In SI, the unit of electric current, the ampere (A), was

historically defined such that the magnetic force exerted by

two infinitely long, thin, parallel wires 1 metre apart and

carrying a current of 1 ampere is exactly 2×10−7 N/m. This

definition results in all SI electromagnetic units consistent

(subject to factors of some integer powers of 10) with the

EMU CGS system described in further sections. The

ampere is a base unit of the SI system, with the same

status as the metre, kilogram, and second. Thus the

relationship in the definition of the ampere with the metre

and newton is disregarded, and the ampere is not treated

as dimensionally equivalent to any combination of other

base units. As a result, electromagnetic laws in SI require

an additional constant of proportionality (see Vacuum

permittivity) to relate electromagnetic units to kinematic

units. (This constant of proportionality is derivable directly

from the above definition of the ampere.) All other electric

and magnetic units are derived from these four base units

using the most basic common definitions: for

example, electric charge q is defined as current I multiplied

by time t,

,

therefore the unit of electric charge, the coulomb (C), is defined as 1 C = 1 A⋅s.

quantities and units, and instead derives all electric

and magnetic units directly from the centimetre,

gram, and second by specifying the form of the

expression of physical laws that relate

electromagnetic phenomena to mechanics.

Alternate derivations of CGS units in

electromagnetism[edit]

Electromagnetic relationships to length, time and mass

may be derived by several equally appealing methods.

Two of them rely on the forces observed on charges.

Two fundamental laws relate (seemingly independently

of each other) the electric charge or its rate of

change (electric current) to a mechanical quantity such

as force. They can be written[4] in system-independent

form as follows:

the electrostatic force F between electric

exactly the unit of charge is derived from the base

units.

The second is Ampère's force law, , which

describes the magnetic force F per unit

length L between currents I and I′ flowing in two

straight parallel wires of infinite length, separated

by a distance d that is much greater than the wire

charge is derived from the base units.

Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism relates these

two laws to each other. It states that the ratio of

Therefore, if one derives the unit of charge from the

the unit of current, and therefore the unit of charge,

will lead to a constant prefactor in the Coulomb's law.

Indeed, both of these mutually exclusive approaches

have been practiced by the users of CGS system,

leading to the two independent and mutually exclusive

branches of CGS, described in the subsections below.

However, the freedom of choice in deriving

electromagnetic units from the units of length, mass,

and time is not limited to the definition of charge. While

the electric field can be related to the work performed

by it on a moving electric charge, the magnetic force is

always perpendicular to the velocity of the moving

charge, and thus the work performed by the magnetic

field on any charge is always zero. This leads to a

choice between two laws of magnetism, each relating

magnetic field to mechanical quantities and electric

charge:

by a magnetic field B on a charge q moving with

velocity v:

magnetic field B by an electric current I of finite

length dl at a point displaced by a vector r,

known as Biot–Savart law:

where r and are the length and the unit vector in the direction of

vector r respectively.

These two laws can be used to

derive Ampère's force law above, resulting in

charge is based on the Ampère's force

However, if it is not the case, a choice has to

be made as to which of the two laws above is

a more convenient basis for deriving the unit of

magnetic field.

Furthermore, if we wish to describe the electric

displacement field D and the magnetic

field H in a medium other than vacuum, we

need to also define the constants ε0 and μ0,

which are the vacuum

permittivity and permeability, respectively.

where P and M are polarization

density and magnetization vectors. The factors

λ and λ′ are rationalization constants, which

dimensionless quantity. If λ = λ′ = 1, the

system is said to be "rationalized":[5] the laws

for systems of spherical geometry contain

factors of 4π (for example, point charges),

those of cylindrical geometry – factors of 2π

(for example, wires), and those of planar

geometry contain no factors of π (for example,

parallel-plate capacitors). However, the

original CGS system used λ = λ′ = 4π, or,

and EMU subsystems of CGS (described

below) are not rationalized.

Various extensions of the CGS

system to electromagnetism[edit]

The table below shows the values of the above

constants used in some common CGS

subsystems:

system

Electrosta

tic[4] CGS

c− c− c− 4 4

(ESU, 1 1 1

2 2 2

π π

esu, or

stat-)

Electrom

agnetic[4]

CGS c− 4 4

c2 1 1 1 1

(EMU, 2

π π

emu, or

ab-)

Gaussian[ c− c− c− 4 4

1 1 1

4]

CGS 1 2 1

π π

Lorentz–

Heaviside 1 1 c− 1 1

1

[4]

CGS

SI 1 1 1

Also, note the following correspondence of the

above constants to those in Jackson[4] and

Leung:[6]

equations can be written as:[4][6]

Note that of all these variants, only in

Gaussian and Heaviside–Lorentz

an electromagnetic wave propagating in

vacuum have the same units and are

equal in magnitude in these two variants of

CGS.

Electrostatic units (ESU)[edit]

Main article: Electrostatic units

In one variant of the CGS

system, Electrostatic units (ESU),

charge is defined via the force it exerts on

other charges, and current is then defined

as charge per time. It is done by setting

that Coulomb's law does not contain an

explicit prefactor.

The ESU unit of charge, franklin (Fr), also

known as statcoulomb or esu charge, is

therefore defined as follows:[7]

two equal point charges spaced

1 centimetre apart are said to be of 1

franklin each if the electrostatic force

between them is 1 dyne.

Therefore, in electrostatic CGS units, a

franklin is equal to a centimetre times

square root of dyne:

.

The unit of current is defined as:

.

Dimensionally in the ESU CGS

system, charge q is therefore

equivalent to m1/2L3/2t−1. Hence,

neither charge nor current is an

independent physical quantity in

ESU CGS. This reduction of units

is the consequence of

the Buckingham π theorem.

ESU notation[edit]

All electromagnetic units in ESU

CGS system that do not have

proper names are denoted by a

corresponding SI name with an

attached prefix "stat" or with a

separate abbreviation "esu".[7]

Electromagnetic units

(EMU)[edit]

In another variant of the CGS

system, electromagnetic

units (EMU), current is defined

via the force existing between two

thin, parallel, infinitely long wires

carrying it, and charge is then

defined as current multiplied by

time. (This approach was

eventually used to define the SI

unit of ampere as well). In the

EMU CGS subsystem, this is

done by setting the Ampere force

force law simply contains 2 as an

explicit prefactor (this prefactor 2

is itself a result of integrating a

more general formulation of

Ampère's law over the length of

the infinite wire).

The EMU unit of current, biot (Bi),

also known as abampere or emu

current, is therefore defined as

follows:[7]

The biot is that constant current

which, if maintained in two straight

parallel conductors of infinite

length, of negligible circular cross-

section, and placed

one centimetreapart in vacuum,

would produce between these

conductors a force equal to

two dynes per centimetre of

length.

Therefore, in electromagnetic

CGS units, a biot is equal to a

square root of dyne:

.

The unit of charge in CGS

EMU is:

.

Dimensionally in the EMU

CGS system, charge q is

therefore equivalent to

m1/2L1/2. Hence, neither

charge nor current is an

independent physical

quantity in EMU CGS.

EMU notation[edit]

All electromagnetic units

in EMU CGS system that

do not have proper

names are denoted by a

corresponding SI name

with an attached prefix

"ab" or with a separate

abbreviation "emu".[7]

Relations between

ESU and EMU

units[edit]

The ESU and EMU

subsystems of CGS are

connected by the

fundamental

relationship (see

above), where c =

29,979,245,800 ≈ 3·1010 is

the speed of light in

vacuum in centimetres

per second. Therefore,

the ratio of the

corresponding "primary"

electrical and magnetic

units (e.g. current,

charge, voltage, etc. –

quantities proportional to

those that enter directly

into Coulomb's

law or Ampère's force

law) is equal either

to c−1 or c:[7]

and

.

Units derived

from these may

have ratios equal

to higher powers

of c, for example:

.

Practical

cgs

units[edit]

The practical

cgs system is

a hybrid

system that

uses

the volt and

the ampere a

s the unit of

voltage and

current

respectively.

Doing this

avoids the

inconvenientl

y large and

small

quantities

that arise for

electromagne

tic units in the

esu and emu

systems. This

system was

at one time

widely used

by electrical

engineers

because the

volt and amp

had been

adopted as

international

standard

units by the

International

Electrical

Congress of

1881.[8] As

well as the

volt and amp,

the farad (cap

acitance), oh

m (resistance

), coulomb (el

ectric

charge),

and henry are

consequently

also used in

the practical

system and

are the same

as the SI

units.

However, inte

nsive

properties (th

at is, anything

that is per

unit length,

area, or

volume) will

not be the

same as SI

since the cgs

unit of

distance is

the

centimetre.

For

instance elect

ric field

strength is in

units of volts

per

centimetre, m

agnetic field

strength is in

amps per

centimetre,

and resistivity

is in ohm-

cm.[9]

Some physici

sts and electri

cal

engineers in

North

America still

use these

hybrid

units.[10]

Other

variants[ed

it]

There were at

various points

in time about

half a dozen

systems of

electromagne

tic units in

use, most

based on the

CGS

system.[11] Th

ese also

include

the Gaussian

units and

the Heaviside

–Lorentz

units.

Electro

magneti

c units

in

various

CGS

systems[

edit]

Conversio

n of SI

units in

electroma

gnetism to

ESU, EMU,

and

Gaussian

subsystem

s of CGS[7]

c=

29,979,245

,800

G

a

Q u

E E

u SS s

S M

a yI s

U U

n mu i

u u

t bn a

n n

i oi n

i i

t l t u

t t

y n

i

t

(

1

(

0

− 1

e 1 0

l −

e 1

c

c

)

t c

r )

o

i (

r

c 1 o

c q r

( 0

h 1 −

4 1

a / (

π

r C ) 4

g Φ

×

π

E 1 a

e ×

0 b

− 1

/ 1 C0

−

1

f c

l )

u c

x )

s

t

F

a

r

t

C

e

l 1( ( (

e I 1 1 1

c A0 0 0

t − − −

1 1 1

r

i )

c c c

c ) a )

u b

r s A F

r t r

e a ⋅

n t s

−

t A 1

e

l

e

c

t

r

i

c ( (

p 1 1

o 0 0

t

8 ( 8

e φ 1

n 1− 0

c c

8 −

t / 1

) 1

i V) )

a V a

l s b s

t Vt

/ a a

t t

v V V

o

l

t

a

g

e

e

l ( ( (

e 1 1

10 1 0

c 6

0 6

t 6

EV )

r

/ c c

i

m− a −

c 1 1

f ) b )

i V

e s / s

l t c t

d a ma

t t

V V

/ /

c c

m m

e

l

e

c

t (

r 1

i (

0 (

c − 1

1

d 5 0

0 −

i −

5

s 1c 5

p ) )

c

l DC )

a / s a

m

c 2 t b F

e a C

r

m t /

/

e Cc

c

n / m

2 m

t c 2

f m

2

i

e

l

d

e

l

e (

(

c 1

1 (

t 0

0 1

r 1

) 0

i c 1

9

c p C)

a

d ⋅

b c

i ms

C)

p t

⋅

o a

c D

l t

m

e C

m ⋅

o

m c

e m

n

t

m

a

g (

n 1

e 0 (

t 3

1 (

i 0 1

c 1c 3 0

d ) ) 3

i A )

μ

p ⋅ s a

o mt b e

l 2

a Ar

e t ⋅ g

m A c /

o ⋅ mG

m c 2

e m

2

n

t

m

a (

g 1

n 0

4

e ( (

t 1 1

1 c

i − 0 0

B

c 1

4 4

T

B ) ) )

f s

i t GG

e a

l t

d T

m

1

a ( ( (

g 4 4 4

HA

n π π π

/

e × × ×

m

t 1 1 1

i 0 0 0

− − −

c 3 3 3

H

f ) )

i c

e ) OO

l e e

d s

t

a

t

A

/

c

m

(

m 1

a 0

g 8

n ( (

e 1c 1 1

t Φ − 0 0

8 8

1

i m W ) )

c b)

f s

l t MM

u a x x

x t

W

b

( (

r 1 1

e 0 ( 0

9 9

s 1

i

1c 09 c

s

R − ) −

t 2 2

Ω

a ) )

n a

c s b s

e / Ω/

c c

m m

r ρ1

e ( ( (

s Ω1 1 1

i ⋅ 0 0 0

s m 11 11 11

t

i )

v c c

− −

i 2

a 2

t b

) Ω)

y

⋅

s c s

m

c ( (

a 1 ( 1

p 0 1 0

a −

0 −

c 19 − 9

9

i C

t Fc ) c

2 2

a

n ) a )

c b

e c Fc

m m

( (

1 1

i 0 0

9 9

n (

d c 1 c

u

12 0

− −

9 2

c

L

t ) ) )

H

a

n c a c

c mb m

−

e H−

1 1

⋅ ⋅

s s

2 2

In this

table, c =

29,979,245,8

00 is the

numeric

value of

the speed of

light in

vacuum when

expressed in

units of

centimetres

per second.

The symbol ""

is used

instead of "="

as a reminder

that the SI

and CGS

units

are correspon

ding but

not equal bec

ause they

have

incompatible

dimensions.

For example,

according to

the next-to-

last row of

the table, if a

capacitor has

a capacitance

of 1 F in SI,

then it has a

capacitance

of (10−9 c2) cm

in ESU; but it

is usually

incorrect to

replace "1 F"

with "(10−9 c2)

cm" within an

equation or

formula. (This

warning is a

special

aspect of

electromagne

tism units in

CGS. By

contrast, for

example, it

is always corr

ect to replace

"1 m" with

"100 cm"

within an

equation or

formula.)

One can think

of the SI

value of

the Coulomb

constant kC a

s:

This

explains

why SI to

ESU

conversio

ns

involving

factors

of c2 lead

to

significan

t

simplifica

tions of

the ESU

units,

such as

1 statF =

1 cm and

1 statΩ =

1 s/cm:

this is the

conseque

nce of

the fact

that in

ESU

system kC

= 1. For

example,

a

centimetr

e of

capacitan

ce is the

capacitan

ce of a

sphere of

radius

1 cm in

vacuum.

The

capacitan

ce C bet

ween two

concentri

c spheres

of

radii R an

d r in

ESU

CGS

system

is:

.

By

takin

g the

limit

as R

goes

to

infinit

y we

see

C eq

uals r

.

Ph

ysi

cal

con

sta

nts

in

CG

S

uni

ts[e

dit]

Co

mm

onl

y

use

d

phy

sic

al

con

sta

nts

in

CG

S

uni

ts[12]

C

oS

V

ny

a

sm

l

t b

u

ao

e

nl

t

1

.

6

A 6

t 0

o

m 5

i 3

c 8

m

u 7

a

s 8

s 2

u ×

n 1

i 0

−

t 2

4

B 9

oμ .

B

h 2

r 7

m 4

a

g 0

n 0

e 9

t

o 1

n 5

×

1

0

−

2

1

e

r

g

/

G

(

E

M

U

,

G

a

u

s

s

i

a

n

)

2

.

7

8

0

2

7

8

0

0

×

1

0

−

1

0

s

t

a

t

A

·

c

m

2

(

E

S

U

)

5

.

2

9

1

B 7

o 7

h 2

r

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l 3

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9

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1

0

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l

e 3

c 8

t 2

r m

oe 1

n 5

m ×

a 1

s 0

s −

2

8

4

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l 8

e 0

m 3

e

n 2

t e 0

a 4

r

y 2

c 7

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a 1

r 0

−

1

g 0

e

F

r

(

E

S

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a

u

s

s

i

a

n

)

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.

6

0

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1

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6

4

8

7

×

1

0

−

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0

a

b

C

(

E

M

U

)

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i

n 7

e .

- 2

s 9

t 7

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u 3

c≈ 5

t 1 2

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r 1 5

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c

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t g

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n s

t 2

)

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l .

a 6

n 2

c 6

k

c 0

o 6

n 8

s

t 8

a 5

n ×

t 1

0

−

2

7

e

r

g

·

s

1

.

0

5

4

5

7

1

6

ħ×

1

0

−

2

7

e

r

g

·

s

S ≡

p

c

e 2

e .

d 9

o 9

f 7

l

i 9

g 2

h 4

t

i 5

n 8

v ×

a 1

c 0

1

u 0

u

m

c

m

/

s

Ad

van

tag

es

an

d

dis

adv

ant

age

s[edi

t]

While

the

abse

nce

of

expli

cit

prefa

ctors

in

some

CGS

subs

yste

ms

simpl

ifies

some

theor

etical

calcu

lation

s, it

has

the

disad

vanta

ge

that

some

times

the

units

in

CGS

are

hard

to

defin

e

throu

gh

exper

iment

.

Also,

lack

of

uniqu

e unit

name

s

leads

to a

great

confu

sion:

thus

"15

emu"

may

mean

either

15 ab

volts,

or 15

emu

units

of ele

ctric

dipol

e

mom

ent,

or 15

emu

units

of ma

gneti

c

susc

eptibi

lity,

some

times

(but

not

alwa

ys)

per g

ram,

or

per

mole.

On

the

other

hand,

SI

starts

with

a unit

of

curre

nt,

the a

mper

e,

that

is

easie

r to

deter

mine

throu

gh

exper

iment

, but

whic

h

requi

res

extra

multi

plicat

ive

factor

s in

the

electr

omag

netic

equat

ions.

With

its

syste

m of

uniqu

ely

name

d

units,

the

SI

also

remo

ves

any

confu

sion

in

usag

e: 1.0

ampe

re is

a

fixed

value

of a

speci

fied

quant

ity,

and

so

are

1.0 h

enry,

1.0 o

hm,

and

1.0

volt.

A key

virtue

of

the G

aussi

an

CGS

syste

m is

that

electr

ic

and

magn

etic

fields

have

the

same

units,

4πϵ0 i

s

repla

ced

by 1,

and

the

only

dime

nsion

al

const

ant

appe

aring

in

the M

axwe

ll

equat

ions i

s c,

the

spee

d of

light.

The

Heav

iside

–

Lore

ntz

syste

m ha

s

these

desir

able

prop

erties

as

well

(with

ϵ0 eq

ualin

g 1),

but it

is a

"ratio

naliz

ed"

syste

m (as

is SI)

in

whic

h the

charg

es

and

fields

are

defin

ed in

such

a

way

that

there

are

many

fewer

factor

s of

4π a

ppea

ring

in the

form

ulas,

and it

is in

Heav

iside

–

Lore

ntz

units

that

the

Max

well

equat

ions

take

their

simpl

est

form.

In SI,

and

other

ration

alize

d

syste

ms

(for

exam

ple,

Heav

iside

–

Lore

ntz),

the

unit

of

curre

nt

was

chos

en

such

that

electr

omag

netic

equat

ions

conc

ernin

g

charg

ed

spher

es

conta

in

4π,

those

conc

ernin

g

coils

of

curre

nt

and

straig

ht

wires

conta

in 2π

and

those

deali

ng

with

charg

ed

surfa

ces

lack

π

entire

ly,

whic

h

was

the

most

conv

enien

t

choic

e for

appli

catio

ns

in ele

ctrica

l

engin

eerin

g.

How

ever,

mode

rn ha

nd

calcu

lators

and

perso

nal

comp

uters

have

elimi

nated

this

"adv

antag

e". In

some

fields

wher

e

form

ulas

conc

ernin

g

spher

es

are

com

mon

(for

exam

ple,

in

astro

physi

cs), it

has

been

argu

ed[by

whom?]

t

hat

the

nonr

ation

alize

d

CGS

syste

m

can

be

some

what

more

conv

enien

t

notati

onall

y.

In

fact,

in

certai

n

fields

,

speci

alize

d unit

syste

ms

are

used

to

simpl

ify

form

ulas

even

furth

er

than

either

SI or

CGS

, by

elimi

natin

g

const

ants

throu

gh

some

syste

m

of nat

ural

units.

For

exam

ple,

those

in par

ticle

physi

cs us

ea

syste

m

wher

e

every

quant

ity is

expre

ssed

by

only

one

unit,

the el

ectro

nvolt,

with

lengt

hs,

times

, and

so on

all

conv

erted

into

electr

onvol

ts by

insert

ing

factor

s

of c a

nd

the

Planc

k

const

ant ħ.

This

unit

syste

m is

very

conv

enien

t for

calcu

lation

s

in par

ticle

physi

cs,

but it

woul

d be

impra

ctical

in all

other

conte

xts.

The MKS system of units is a physical system of units that expresses any given measurement

using base units of the metre, kilogram, and/or second (MKS).[1]

Historically the use of the MKS system of units succeeded the centimetre–gram–second system of

units (CGS) in commerce and engineering, (1889). The metre and kilogram system served as the

basis for the development of the International System of Units, which now serves as the international

standard. Because of this, the standards of the CGS system were gradually replaced with metric

standards incorporated from the MKS system.[2] The exact list of units used in the MKS system

changed over time. It incorporated base units other than the metre, kilogram, and second in addition

to derived units. An incomplete list of the base and derived units appears below. Since the MKS

system of units never had a governing body to rule on a standard definition, the list of units

depended on different conventions at different times.

Cycle (This dimensionless quantity became synonymous with the term "cycle per second" as an

abbreviation. This circumstance confused the exact definition of the term cycle. Therefore, the

phrase "cycle per metre" became ill-defined. The cycle did not become an SI unit.)

Cycle per second[3]

Cycle per metre (This measure of wavenumber became ill-defined due to the abbreviation of

"cycle per second" as "cycle".)

In 1901, Giovanni Giorgi proposed to the Associazione elettrotecnica italiana (it) (AEI) that this

system, extended with a fourth unit to be taken from the units of electromagnetism, be used as an

international system.[4]

The foot–pound–second system or FPS system is a system of units built on three fundamental

units: the foot for length, the (avoirdupois) pound for either mass or force (see below), and

the second for time.[1]

Contents

[hide]

1Variants

o 1.1Pound as mass unit

o 1.2Pound-force as force unit

o 1.3Pound as force unit

2Other units

o 2.1Molar units

o 2.2Electromagnetic units

o 2.3Units of light

3Conversions

4See also

5References

Variants[edit]

Collectively, the variants of the FPS system were the most common system in technical publications

in English until the middle of the 20th century.[1]

Errors can be avoided and translation between the systems facilitated by labelling all physical

quantities consistently with their units. Especially in the context of the FPS system this is sometimes

known as the Stroud system after William Stroud, who popularized it.[2]

v

t

e Force Weight Mass

Base

2nd law of

motion

m = F/a F = W⋅a/g F = m⋅a

British Gravitational English Engineering

System Absolute English (AE)

(BG) (EE)

Acceleration (a) ft/s2 ft/s2 ft/s2

Mass (m) slug pound-mass pound

Force (F),

pound pound-force poundal

weight (W)

pound-force per square

Pressure (p) pound per square inch poundal per square foot

inch

When the pound is used as a unit of mass, the core of the coherent system is similar and

functionally equivalent to the corresponding subsets of the International System of Units(SI),

using metre, kilogram and second (MKS), and the earlier centimetre–gram–second system of

units (CGS).

In this sub-system, the unit of force is a derived unit known as the poundal.[1]

The international standard symbol for the pound as unit of mass rather than force is lb.[5]

standards. No cleanup reason has been specified. Please

help improve this section if you can. (October 2011) (Learn how and

when to remove this template message)

Everett (1861) proposed the metric dyne and erg as the units of force and energy in the FPS

system.

Latimer Clark's (1891) "Dictionary of Measures"

contains celo (acceleration), vel or velo (velocity) and pulse (momentum) as proposed names for

FPS absolute units.

The technical or gravitational FPS system,[6] is a coherent variant of the FPS system that is

most common among engineers in the United States. It takes the pound-force as a fundamental

unit of force instead of the pound as a fundamental unit of mass.

In this sub-system, the unit of mass is a derived unit known as the slug.[1]

In the context of the gravitational FPS system, the pound-force (lbf) is sometimes referred to

as the pound (lb).

Another variant of the FPS system uses both the pound-mass and the pound-force, but

neither the slug nor the poundal. The resulting system is not coherent, lacking electrical or

molar units, and is sometimes also known as the British engineering system, although

rarely used nowadays in the United Kingdom.[6]

Other units[edit]

This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality

standards. No cleanup reason has been specified. Please

help improve this section if you can. (October 2011) (Learn how

and when to remove this template message)

Molar units[edit]

The unit of substance in the FPS system is the pound-mole (lb-mol) = 273.16×1024. Until the

SI decided to adopt the gram-mole, the mole was directly derived from the mass unit as

(mass unit)/(atomic mass unit). The unit (lbf⋅s2/ft)-mol also appears in a former definition of

the atmosphere.

Electromagnetic units[edit]

The Electrostatic and Electromagnetic systems are derived from units of length and force,

mainly. As such, these are ready extensions of any system of containing length, mass, time.

Stephen Dresner[7] gives the derived electrostatic and electromagnetic units in both the foot–

pound–second and foot–slug–second systems. In practice, these are most associated with

the centimetre–gram–second system. The 1929 "International Critical Tables" gives in the

symbols and systems fpse = FPS electrostatic system and fpsm = FPS electromagnetic

system. Under the conversions for charge, the following are given. The CRC Handbook of

Chemistry and Physics 1979 (Edition 60), also lists fpse and fpsm as standard

abbreviations.

Electromagnetic FPS (EMU, stat-)

1 fpsm unit = 117.581866 cgsm unit (Biot-second) [clarification needed]

Electrostatic FPS (ESU, ab-)

1 fpse unit = 3583.8953 cgse unit (Franklin)

1 fpse unit = 1.1954588×10−6 abs coulomb

Units of light[edit]

The candle and the foot-candle were the first defined units of light, defined in

the Metropolitan Gas Act (1860).[8] The foot-candle is the intensity of light at one

foot from a standard candle. The units were internationally recognised in 1881,

and adopted into the metric system.[9]

Conversions[edit]

Together with the fact that the term "weight" is used for the gravitational force in

some technical contexts (physics, engineering) and for mass in others

(commerce, law),[10] and that the distinction often does not matter in practice, the

coexistence of variants of the FPS system causes confusion over the nature of

the unit "pound". Its relation to international, metric units is expressed in

kilograms, not newtons, though, and in earlier times it was defined by means of

a mass prototype to be compared with a two-pan balance which is agnostic of

local gravitational differences.

In July 1959, the various national foot and avoirdupois pound standards were

replaced by the international foot of precisely 0.3048 m and the international

pound of precisely 0.45359237 kg, making conversion between the systems a

matter of simple arithmetic. The conversion for the poundal is given by 1 pdl

= 1 lb·ft/s2 = 0.138254954376 N(precisely).[1]

To convert between the absolute and gravitational FPS systems one needs to

fix the standard acceleration g which relates the pound to the pound-force.

While g strictly depends on one's location on the Earth surface, since 1901

in most contexts it is fixed conventionally at

precisely g0 = 9.80665 m/s2 ≈ 32.17405 ft/s2.[1] Therefore, the slug is

about 32.17405 lb or 14.593903 kg.

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