<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
  • Perform unit conversions both in the SI and English units.
  • Explain the most common prefixes in the SI units and be able to write them in scientific notation.
A view of Earth from the Moon.
The distance from Earth to the Moon may seem immense, but it is just a tiny fraction of the distances from Earth to other celestial bodies. (credit: NASA)

The range of objects and phenomena studied in physics is immense. From the incredibly short lifetime of a nucleus to the age of the Earth, from the tiny sizes of sub-nuclear particles to the vast distance to the edges of the known universe, from the force exerted by a jumping flea to the force between Earth and the Sun, there are enough factors of 10 to challenge the imagination of even the most experienced scientist. Giving numerical values for physical quantities and equations for physical principles allows us to understand nature much more deeply than does qualitative description alone. To comprehend these vast ranges, we must also have accepted units in which to express them. And we shall find that (even in the potentially mundane discussion of meters, kilograms, and seconds) a profound simplicity of nature appears—all physical quantities can be expressed as combinations of only four fundamental physical quantities: length, mass, time, and electric current.

We define a physical quantity    either by specifying how it is measured or by stating how it is calculated from other measurements. For example, we define distance and time by specifying methods for measuring them, whereas we define average speed by stating that it is calculated as distance traveled divided by time of travel.

Measurements of physical quantities are expressed in terms of units    , which are standardized values. For example, the length of a race, which is a physical quantity, can be expressed in units of meters (for sprinters) or kilometers (for distance runners). Without standardized units, it would be extremely difficult for scientists to express and compare measured values in a meaningful way. (See [link] .)

A boy looking at a map and trying to guess distances with unit of length mentioned as cables between two points.
Distances given in unknown units are maddeningly useless.

There are two major systems of units used in the world: SI units    (also known as the metric system) and English units    (also known as the customary or imperial system). English units were historically used in nations once ruled by the British Empire and are still widely used in the United States. Virtually every other country in the world now uses SI units as the standard; the metric system is also the standard system agreed upon by scientists and mathematicians. The acronym “SI” is derived from the French Système International .

Si units: fundamental and derived units

[link] gives the fundamental SI units that are used throughout this textbook. This text uses non-SI units in a few applications where they are in very common use, such as the measurement of blood pressure in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Whenever non-SI units are discussed, they will be tied to SI units through conversions.

Fundamental si units
Length Mass Time Electric Current
meter (m) kilogram (kg) second (s) ampere (A)

Questions & Answers

What is heat
Maryam Reply
can a wheat stone bridge balance
jharana Reply
what is Norton's theorm
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
An atom is the smallest indivisible particle that can take place in a chemical reaction
it consist of proton,neutron and electron
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)
an atom is a smallest particles that take place in chemical reaction.
atom itself also contains further smallest particles e.g quarks
the smallest particle of a substance that can exist by itself or be combined with other atoms to form a molecule
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?
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.
and the word of matter is anything that have mass and occupied space
what is phyices
Aurang Reply
Whats the formula
Okiri Reply
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
The S. L. Unit of sound energy is
Chukwuemeka Reply
what's the conversation like?
some sort of blatherring or mambo jambo you may say
I still don't understand what this group is all about oo
ufff....this associated with physics ..so u can ask questions related to all topics of physics..
what is sound?
what is upthrust
Mercy Reply
what is upthrust
Up thrust is a force
upthrust is a upward force that acts vertical in the ground surface.
yes rodney's answer z correct
what is centre of gravity?
you think the human body could produce such Force

Get the best College physics course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?