<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Order of magnitude

The order of magnitude    of a number is the power of 10 that most closely approximates it. Thus, the order of magnitude refers to the scale (or size) of a value. Each power of 10 represents a different order of magnitude. For example, 10 1 , 10 2 , 10 3 , and so forth, are all different orders of magnitude, as are 10 0 = 1 , 10 −1 , 10 −2 , and 10 −3 . To find the order of magnitude of a number, take the base-10 logarithm of the number and round it to the nearest integer, then the order of magnitude of the number is simply the resulting power of 10. For example, the order of magnitude of 800 is 10 3 because log 10 800 2.903 , which rounds to 3. Similarly, the order of magnitude of 450 is 10 3 because log 10 450 2.653 , which rounds to 3 as well. Thus, we say the numbers 800 and 450 are of the same order of magnitude: 10 3 . However, the order of magnitude of 250 is 10 2 because log 10 250 2.397 , which rounds to 2.

An equivalent but quicker way to find the order of magnitude of a number is first to write it in scientific notation and then check to see whether the first factor is greater than or less than 10 = 10 0.5 3 . The idea is that 10 = 10 0.5 is halfway between 1 = 10 0 and 10 = 10 1 on a log base-10 scale. Thus, if the first factor is less than 10 , then we round it down to 1 and the order of magnitude is simply whatever power of 10 is required to write the number in scientific notation. On the other hand, if the first factor is greater than 10 , then we round it up to 10 and the order of magnitude is one power of 10 higher than the power needed to write the number in scientific notation. For example, the number 800 can be written in scientific notation as 8 × 10 2 . Because 8 is bigger than 10 3 , we say the order of magnitude of 800 is 10 2 + 1 = 10 3 . The number 450 can be written as 4.5 × 10 2 , so its order of magnitude is also 10 3 because 4.5 is greater than 3. However, 250 written in scientific notation is 2.5 × 10 2 and 2.5 is less than 3, so its order of magnitude is 10 2 .

The order of magnitude of a number is designed to be a ballpark estimate for the scale (or size) of its value. It is simply a way of rounding numbers consistently to the nearest power of 10. This makes doing rough mental math with very big and very small numbers easier. For example, the diameter of a hydrogen atom is on the order of 10 −10 m, whereas the diameter of the Sun is on the order of 10 9 m, so it would take roughly 10 9 / 10 −10 = 10 19 hydrogen atoms to stretch across the diameter of the Sun. This is much easier to do in your head than using the more precise values of 1.06 × 10 −10 m for a hydrogen atom diameter and 1.39 × 10 9 m for the Sun’s diameter, to find that it would take 1.31 × 10 19 hydrogen atoms to stretch across the Sun’s diameter. In addition to being easier, the rough estimate is also nearly as informative as the precise calculation.

Known ranges of length, mass, and time

The vastness of the universe and the breadth over which physics applies are illustrated by the wide range of examples of known lengths, masses, and times (given as orders of magnitude) in [link] . Examining this table will give you a feeling for the range of possible topics in physics and numerical values. A good way to appreciate the vastness of the ranges of values in [link] is to try to answer some simple comparative questions, such as the following:

Questions & Answers

a particle projected from origin moving on x-y plane passes through P & Q having consituents (9,7) , (18,4) respectively.find eq. of trajectry.
rahul Reply
definition of inertia
philip Reply
the reluctance of a body to start moving when it is at rest and to stop moving when it is in motion
An inherent property by virtue of which the body remains in its pure state or initial state
why current is not a vector quantity , whereas it have magnitude as well as direction.
Aniket Reply
the flow of current is not current
bcoz it doesn't satisfy the algabric laws of vectors
The Electric current can be defined as the dot product of the current density and the differential cross-sectional area vector : ... So the electric current is a scalar quantity . Scalars are related to tensors by the fact that a scalar is a tensor of order or rank zero .
what is binomial theorem
Tollum Reply
hello are you ready to ask aquestion?
Saadaq Reply
what is binary operations
What is the formula to calculat parallel forces that acts in opposite direction?
Martan Reply
position, velocity and acceleration of vector
Manuel Reply
*a plane flies with a velocity of 1000km/hr in a direction North60degree east.find it effective velocity in the easterly and northerly direction.*
hello Lydia.
What is momentum
A rail way truck of mass 2400kg is hung onto a stationary trunk on a level track and collides with it at 4.7m|s. After collision the two trunk move together with a common speed of 1.2m|s. Calculate the mass of the stationary trunk
Ekuri Reply
I need the solving for this question
is the eye the same like the camera
I can't understand
same here please
I think the question is that ,,, the working principal of eye and camera same or not?
yes i think is same as the camera
what are the dimensions of surface tension
why is the "_" sign used for a wave to the right instead of to the left?
why classical mechanics is necessary for graduate students?
khyam Reply
classical mechanics?
principle of superposition?
Naveen Reply
principle of superposition allows us to find the electric field on a charge by finding the x and y components
Two Masses,m and 2m,approach each along a path at right angles to each other .After collision,they stick together and move off at 2m/s at angle 37° to the original direction of the mass m. What where the initial speeds of the two particles
2m & m initial velocity 1.8m/s & 4.8m/s respectively,apply conservation of linear momentum in two perpendicular directions.
A body on circular orbit makes an angular displacement given by teta(t)=2(t)+5(t)+5.if time t is in seconds calculate the angular velocity at t=2s
2+5+0=7sec differentiate above equation w.r.t time, as angular velocity is rate of change of angular displacement.
Ok i got a question I'm not asking how gravity works. I would like to know why gravity works. like why is gravity the way it is. What is the true nature of gravity?
Daniel Reply
gravity pulls towards a mass...like every object is pulled towards earth
An automobile traveling with an initial velocity of 25m/s is accelerated to 35m/s in 6s,the wheel of the automobile is 80cm in diameter. find * The angular acceleration
Goodness Reply
(10/6) ÷0.4=4.167 per sec
what is the formula for pressure?
Goodness Reply
force is newtom
and area is meter squared
so in SI units pressure is N/m^2
In customary United States units pressure is lb/in^2. pound per square inch
Practice Key Terms 5

Get the best University physics vol... course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 1. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12031/1.5
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'University physics volume 1' conversation and receive update notifications?