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  • 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

basically potentiometer is series circuit or parallel circuit?
muhammad Reply
What is half-life
Godwin Reply
the life in which half of the radioactive element decay
Arif
what is fluid
Anthony Reply
anything that flows is Liquid.
prakash
a substance that has no specific shape
Saleemulhaq
How submarines floats one water the same time sink in water
Courage Reply
A submarine has the ability to float and sink. The ability to control buoyancy comes from the submarine'strim or ballast tanks which can be filled with either water or air, depending on whether the submarine needs to floator sink. When the submarine floats it means its trim tanks are filled with air
Arif
define electromagnetic radiation
Anthony
what is work
Ojo Reply
Force times distance
Karanja
product of force and distance...
Arif
Is physics a natural science?
Adebisi Reply
what is the difference between a jet engine and a rocket engine.
Samuel Reply
explain the relationship between momentum and force
Joseph Reply
A moment is equivalent multiplied by the length passing through the point of reaction and that is perpendicular to the force
Karanja
How to find Squirrel frontal area from it's surface area?
Pooja Reply
how do we arrange the electronic configuration of elements
Muhammed Reply
hi guys i am an elementary student
benedict Reply
hi
Dancan
hello
adolphus
are you an elementary student too?
benedict
no bro
adolphus
yes
Che
hi
Miranwa
yes
Miranwa
welcome
Miranwa
what is the four equation of motion
Miranwa
what is strain?
SAMUEL
Change in dimension per unit dimension is called strain. Ex - Change in length per unit length l/L.
ABHIJIT
strain is the ratio of extension to length..=e/l...it has no unit because both are in meters and they cancel each other
adeleke
How is it possible for one to drink a cold drink from a straw?
Karanja Reply
most possible as it is for you to drink your wine from your straw
Selina
state the law of conservation of energy
Sushma Reply
energy can neither be destroy or created,but can be change from one form to another
dare
yeah
Toheeb
it can neither be created nor destroyed
Toheeb
its so sample question dude
Muhsin
what is the difference between a principle and a law?
Mary Reply
where are from you wendy .?
ghulam
philippines
Mary
why?
Mary
you are beautiful
ghulam
are you physics student
ghulam
laws are ment to be broken
Ge
hehe ghulam where r u from?
Muhsin
yes
dare
principle are meant to be followed
dare
south Africa
dare
here Nigeria
Toheeb
principle is a rule or law of nature, or the basic idea on how the laws of nature are applied.
Ayoka
Rules are meant to be broken while principals to be followed
Karanja
principle is a rule or law of nature, or the basic idea on how the laws of nature are applied.
tathir
what is momentum?
prakash Reply
is the mass times velocity of an object
True
it is the product of mass and velocity of an object.
The momentum possessed by a body is generally defined as the product of its mass and velocity m×v
Usman
momentum is the product of the mass of a body of its velocity
Ugbesia

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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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