<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

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 a half life
Mama Reply
the time taken for a radioactive element to decay by half of its original mass
ken
what is radioactive element
mohammed
Half of the total time required by a radioactive nuclear atom to totally disintegrate
Justice
radioactive elements are those with unstable nuclei(ie have protons more than neutrons, or neutrons more than protons
Justice
in other words, the radioactive atom or elements have unequal number of protons to neutrons.
Justice
state the laws of refraction
Fabian
state laws of reflection
Fabian
Why does a bicycle rider bends towards the corner when is turning?
Mac
When do we say that the stone thrown vertically up wards accelerate negatively?
Mac
Give two importance of insulator placed between plates of a capacitor.
Mac
Macho had a shoe with a big sole moving in mudy Road, shanitah had a shoe with a small sole. Give reasons for those two cases.
Mac
when was the name taken from
Biola Reply
retardation of a car
Biola
when was the name retardation taken
Biola
did you mean a motion with velocity decreases uniformly by the time? then, the vector acceleration is opposite direction with vector velocity
Sphere
Atomic transmutation
Basirat Reply
An atom is the smallest indivisible particular of an element
mosco Reply
what is an atomic
Awene Reply
reference on periodic table
Titus Reply
what Is resonance?
Mozam Reply
phenomena of increasing amplitude from normal position of a substance due to some external source.
akif
What is a black body
Amey Reply
Black body is the ideal body can absorb and emit all radiation
Ahmed
the emissivity of black body is 1. it is a perfect absorber and emitter of heat.
Busayo
Why is null measurement accurate than standard voltmeter
Neemat Reply
that is photoelectric effect ?
Sabir Reply
It is the emission of electrons when light hits a material
Anita
Yeah
yusuf
is not just a material
Neemat
it is the surface of a metal
Neemat
what is the formula for time of flight ,maxjmum height and range
agangan Reply
what is an atom
Awene
how does a lightning rod protect a building from damage due to lightning ?
Faith Reply
due to its surface lustre but due to some factors it can corrode but not easily as it lightning surface
babels
pls what is mirage
babels
light rays bend to produce a displaced image of distant objects; it's an natural & optical phenomenon......
Deepika
what is the dimensional formula for torque
Otto Reply
L2MT-2
Jolly
same units of energy
Baber
what is same units of energy?
Baber
Nm
Sphere
Ws
Sphere
CV
Sphere
M L2 T -2
Dokku
it is like checking the dimension of force. which is ML2T-2
Busayo
ML2T-2
Joshua
M L2 T-2
Samuel
what is the significance of moment of inertia?
study
an object of mass 200g moves along a circular path of radius 0.5cm with a speed of 2m/s. calculate the angular velocity ii period iii frequency of the object
Faith Reply
w = 2/(0.005) period = PIE(0.005) f = 1/(PIE(0.005)) assuming uniform motion idk..
Georgie
w=2/(0.005)×100
isaac
supposed the speed on the path is constant angular velocity w (rad/s) = v (m/s) : R (m) period T (s) = 2*Pi * R : v frequency f ( Hz) = 1: T
Sphere
a=w.w.r=mv.v/r,w=mv/r=0.2×2/0.005=80rads-s
Mac
in the pole vaulter problem, how do they established that the mass is 5.00kg? where did that number come from?
-- Reply

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?

Ask