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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe how SI base units are defined.
  • Describe how derived units are created from base units.
  • Express quantities given in SI units using metric prefixes.

As we saw previously, the range of objects and phenomena studied in physics is immense. From the incredibly short lifetime of a nucleus to the age of Earth, from the tiny sizes of subnuclear 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 qualitative descriptions alone. To comprehend these vast ranges, we must also have accepted units in which to express them. 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 seven base physical quantities.

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 might define distance and time by specifying methods for measuring them, such as using a meter stick and a stopwatch. Then, we could define average speed by stating that it is calculated as the total 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 ( [link] ).

A drawing of a person looking at a map that has the distance scale labeled as 1 cable, and wondering how big is a cable.
Distances given in unknown units are maddeningly useless.

Two major systems of units are used in the world: SI units    (for the French Système International d’Unités ), 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. English units may also be referred to as the foot–pound–second (fps) system, as opposed to the centimeter–gram–second (cgs) system. You may also encounter the term SAE units , named after the Society of Automotive Engineers. Products such as fasteners and automotive tools (for example, wrenches) that are measured in inches rather than metric units are referred to as SAE fasteners or SAE wrenches .

Virtually every other country in the world (except the United States) now uses SI units as the standard. The metric system is also the standard system agreed on by scientists and mathematicians.

Si units: base and derived units

In any system of units, the units for some physical quantities must be defined through a measurement process. These are called the base quantities for that system and their units are the system’s base unit     s . All other physical quantities can then be expressed as algebraic combinations of the base quantities. Each of these physical quantities is then known as a derived quantity    and each unit is called a derived unit . The choice of base quantities is somewhat arbitrary, as long as they are independent of each other and all other quantities can be derived from them. Typically, the goal is to choose physical quantities that can be measured accurately to a high precision as the base quantities. The reason for this is simple. Since the derived units    can be expressed as algebraic combinations of the base units, they can only be as accurate and precise as the base units from which they are derived.

Questions & Answers

what is vector
Abdulrahman Reply
A quantity having both magnitude and direction
quality having both magnitude and direction
How to calculate for overall displacement
Eseoghene Reply
Well, take Final Position-Starting position
what is velocity
Austine Reply
speed per unit time is called velocity. it is a vector quantity
velocity is distances overall time taking,it is a vector quantity, the units is metre per second.
frequency is rate at which something happens or is repeated. it is a vector quantity
what is the difference between resultant force and net force
Ogali Reply
net force is when you add forces numerically I.e. the total sum of all positive and negative or balanced and unbalanced forces. resultant force is a single vector which is the combination or addition of all x and y axes vector component forces in a system.
resultant force is applied to hold or put together an object moving at the wrong direction. in other words it repairs.
Damping is provided by tuning the turbulence levels in the moving water using baffles.How it happens? Give me a labelled diagram of it.
Shaina Reply
A 10kg ball travelling at 4meter per second collides elastically in a head-on collision with a 2kg ball.What are (a)the velocities and (b)the total momentum of the balls after collision?
Law Reply
a)v1 8/3s&v2 20/3s. b)in elastic collision total momentum is conserved.
multiply both weight which is 10*2 divided by the time give 4. and our answer will be 5.
The displacement of the air molecules in sound wave is modeled with the wave function s(x,t)=5.00nmcos(91.54m−1x−3.14×104s−1t)s(x,t)=5.00nmcos(91.54m−1x−3.14×104s−1t) . (a) What is the wave speed of the sound wave? (b) What is the maximum speed of the air molecules as they oscillate in simple harmon
Shaina Reply
the question is wrong. if you need assistance with displacement I can help out.
practical 1st year physics
Nsc Reply
allot of practicals, be specific with your topic and we can discuss.
Whats the formular for newton law of motion
Ahmad Reply
F=m×a Where F=force M=mass of a body of an object a=acceleration due to gravity
what is speed
Hassan Reply
distance travelled per unit of time is speed.
distance travelled in a particular direction it is.
Speed is define as the distance move per unit time. Mathematically is given as Speed = distance/time Speed = s/t
speed is a vector quantity. It is defined distance per unit time.It's unit in c.g.s cm/s and in S.I. m/s.It’s dimension is LT^-1
formula for velocity
Amraketa Reply
v=ms^-1 velocity=distance time
(p-a/v)(v-b)=nrt what is the dimension of a
velocity= displacement time
Velocity = speed/time
what are evasive medical diagnosis?
Shaina Reply
If the block is displaced to a position y , the net force becomes Fnet=k(y−y0)−mg=0Fnet=k(y−y0)−mg=0 . But we found that at the equilibrium position, mg=kΔy=ky0−ky1mg=kΔy=ky0−ky1 . Substituting for the weight in the equation yields. Show me an equation of graph.
where are you come from
samastipur Bihar
simple harmonic motion defination
Maharam Reply
how to easily memorize motion equation
how speed destrog is uranium
Sayed Reply
where can we find practice problems?
bonokuhle Reply
I'm not well

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 1. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12031/1.5
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