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Physical Quantities & Units

Physical Quantities and Units refer to measurement.



Measurement involves counting, but we can only
count numbers 1,2,3,4... of a particular item.

- The other thing we can do is to count the number
of times a physical quantity is greater or less for one
case than in another case.

- A complete specification of the method of
counting specifies a unit.
How units are defined
- A unit has to have a special name and symbol. The
usefulness of a unit is as a means of communicating to
everyone who does science how it was particularly defined.

- To make a desk of a certain length, breath and height it is
necessary to determine ratio of its dimensions as compared
to the defined unit. ie. A numerical magnitude x its unit

Therefore, defined units must be:
- unambiguously defined
- reproducible to a great accuracy
- accepted by the most people

SI units
- The SI units (adopted in 1960) represent a set of
basic physical quantities.
- Second(s). The second is defined as a number of
the period of vibration of radiation from the cesium-
133 atom.
- Metre (m). The distance travelled by light in
vacuum during a time of 1/299 792 458 second.
- Kilogramme (kg). Defined as the mass of a
specific platinum-iridium alloy cylinder kept at the
International Bureau of Weights and Measures in
France.
SI Units
- Kelvin (K). The kelvin is defined as 1/273.16 of
the temperature of the triple point of water.
- Ampere (A). Defined as the constant current
which, if maintained in two straight parallel
conductors of infinite length, of negligible cross
section, and placed one metre apart in vacuum,
would provide between the conductors a force equal
to 2 x 10
-7
newton per metre of length.
- Mole (mol). The amount of substance
containing as many identical units as there are
atoms in 12 grams of carbon-12.
Magnitudes
METRIC SYSTEM PREFIXES

Factor Decimal Representation Prefix Symbol
10
18
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 exa E
10
15
1,000,000,000,000,000 peta P
10
12
1,000,000,000,000 tera T
10
9
1,000,000,000 giga G
10
6
1,000,000 mega M
10
3
1,000 kilo k
10
2
100 hecto h
10
1
10 deka da
10
0
1
10
-1
0.1 deci d
10
-2
0.01 centi c
10
-3
0.001 milli m
10
-6
0.000 001 micro m
10
-9
0.000 000 001 nano n
10
-12
0.000 000 000 001 pico p
10
-15
0.000 000 000 000 001 femto f
10
-18
0.000 000 000 000 000 001 atto a
Scalars and Vectors
Scalars are quantities which are fully described by a
magnitude alone. Examples are all the SI base units
which are all described by their numerical
magnitudes.

Vectors are quantities which are fully described by
both a magnitude and a direction.
Vectors & Resultant Vectors
Parallelogram method