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It is an intriguing fact that some physical quantities are more fundamental than others and that the most fundamental physical quantities can be defined only in terms of the procedure used to measure them. The units in which they are measured are thus called fundamental units    . In this textbook, the fundamental physical quantities are taken to be length, mass, time, and electric current. (Note that electric current will not be introduced until much later in this text.) All other physical quantities, such as force and electric charge, can be expressed as algebraic combinations of length, mass, time, and current (for example, speed is length divided by time); these units are called derived units    .

Units of time, length, and mass: the second, meter, and kilogram

The second

The SI unit for time, the second    (abbreviated s), has a long history. For many years it was defined as 1/86,400 of a mean solar day. More recently, a new standard was adopted to gain greater accuracy and to define the second in terms of a non-varying, or constant, physical phenomenon (because the solar day is getting longer due to very gradual slowing of the Earth’s rotation). Cesium atoms can be made to vibrate in a very steady way, and these vibrations can be readily observed and counted. In 1967 the second was redefined as the time required for 9,192,631,770 of these vibrations. (See [link] .) Accuracy in the fundamental units is essential, because all measurements are ultimately expressed in terms of fundamental units and can be no more accurate than are the fundamental units themselves.

A top view of an atomic fountain is shown. It measures time using the vibration of the cesium atom.
An atomic clock such as this one uses the vibrations of cesium atoms to keep time to a precision of better than a microsecond per year. The fundamental unit of time, the second, is based on such clocks. This image is looking down from the top of an atomic fountain nearly 30 feet tall! (credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)

The meter

The SI unit for length is the meter    (abbreviated m); its definition has also changed over time to become more accurate and precise. The meter was first defined in 1791 as 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the equator to the North Pole. This measurement was improved in 1889 by redefining the meter to be the distance between two engraved lines on a platinum-iridium bar now kept near Paris. By 1960, it had become possible to define the meter even more accurately in terms of the wavelength of light, so it was again redefined as 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of orange light emitted by krypton atoms. In 1983, the meter was given its present definition (partly for greater accuracy) as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second. (See [link] .) This change defines the speed of light to be exactly 299,792,458 meters per second. The length of the meter will change if the speed of light is someday measured with greater accuracy.

The kilogram

The SI unit for mass is the kilogram    (abbreviated kg); it is defined to be the mass of a platinum-iridium cylinder kept with the old meter standard at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris. Exact replicas of the standard kilogram are also kept at the United States’ National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland outside of Washington D.C., and at other locations around the world. The determination of all other masses can be ultimately traced to a comparison with the standard mass.

Questions & Answers

What is heat
Maryam Reply
can a wheat stone bridge balance
jharana Reply
what is Norton's theorm
jharana
an atom is symply a smallest unsplittable particle that makes up a compound
levison Reply
what is atom
Ismaila Reply
nano parricles are arranging periodic
Bala
An atom is the smallest indivisible particle that can take place in a chemical reaction
Maryam
it consist of proton,neutron and electron
Ifada
An atom is the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter that has the properties of a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms. Atoms are extremely small; typical sizes are around 100 picometers (a ten-billionth of a meter, in the short scale)
Baba
an atom is a smallest particles that take place in chemical reaction.
Gabriel
atom itself also contains further smallest particles e.g quarks
Baba
the smallest particle of a substance that can exist by itself or be combined with other atoms to form a molecule
Emmanuel
Water is flowing in a pipe with a varying cross-sectional area, and at all points the water completely fills the pipe. At point 1 the cross-sectional area of the pipe is 0.077 m2, and the magnitude of the fluid velocity is 3.50 m/s. (a) What is the fluid speed at points in the pipe where the cross
fagbeji Reply
A particle behave like a wave and we do not why?
WAQAR
what's the period of velocity 4cm/s at displacement 10cm
Andrew Reply
What is physics
LordRalph Reply
the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of physics includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms.
Aluko
and the word of matter is anything that have mass and occupied space
Aluko
what is phyices
Aurang Reply
Whats the formula
Okiri Reply
1/v+1/u=1/f
Aluko
what aspect of black body spectrum forced plank to purpose quantization of energy level in its atoms and molicules
Shoaib Reply
a man has created by who?
Angel Reply
What type of experimental evidence indicates that light is a wave
Edeh Reply
double slit experiment
Eric
The S. L. Unit of sound energy is
Chukwuemeka Reply
Hertz
jharana
what's the conversation like?
ENOBONG Reply
some sort of blatherring or mambo jambo you may say
muhammad
I still don't understand what this group is all about oo
ENOBONG
no
uchenna
ufff....this associated with physics ..so u can ask questions related to all topics of physics..
muhammad
what is sound?
Bella
what is upthrust
Mercy Reply
what is upthrust
Olisa
Up thrust is a force
Samuel
upthrust is a upward force that acts vertical in the ground surface.
Rodney
yes rodney's answer z correct
Paul
what is centre of gravity?
Paul
you think the human body could produce such Force
Anthony

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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