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This provides a summary of most of the units of measurement to be found in use around the world today (and a few of historical interest), together with the appropriate conversion factors needed to change them into a 'standard' unit of the SI.

The units may be found either by looking under the category in which they are used, (length energy etc.) or by picking one unit from an alphabetically ordered list of units. There is an outline of the a list of its 7 basic some of its together with a list of all the and some of the rules and conventions for On the subject of measures generally, there is a short Then there are descriptions of the and the followed by statements on the implementation of S I system, definitions, derived units, S I prefixes, its usage. historical note. Metric system, U K (Imperial) system, 'metrication' in the U K,

and then the U S system of measures. At the bottom of this document is a list of other sources, and also some links to other Web sites. Finally there are some notes on this material .

Le Systeme international d'Unites officially came into being in October 1960 and has been officially recognised and adopted by nearly all countries, though the amount of actual usage varies considerably. It is based upon 7 principal units, 1 in each of 7 different categories Category Length Mass Time Electric current Temperature Amount of substance Luminous intensity Name metre kilogram second ampere kelvin mole candela Abbrev. m kg s A K mol cd

Definitions of these basic units are given. Each of these units may take a prefix. From these basic units many other units are derived and named.

metre [m] The metre is the basic unit of length. It is the distance light travels, in a vacuum, in 1/299792458th of a second. kilogram [kg] The kilogram is the basic unit of mass. It is the mass of an international prototype in the form of a platinum-iridium cylinder kept at Sevres in France. It is now the only basic unit still defined in terms of a material object, and also the only one with a prefix[kilo] already in place. second [s] The second is the basic unit of time. It is the length of time taken for 9192631770 periods of vibration of the caesium-133 atom to occur. ampere [A] The ampere is the basic unit of electric current. It is that current which produces a specified force between two parallel wires which are 1 metre apart in a vacuum.It is named after the French physicist Andre Ampere (1775-1836). kelvin [K] The kelvin is the basic unit of temperature. It is 1/273.16th of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water. It is named after the Scottish mathematician and physicist William Thomson 1st Lord Kelvin (1824-1907). mole [mol] The mole is the basic unit of substance. It is the amount of substance that contains as many elementary units as there are atoms in 0.012 kg of carbon-12. candela [cd] The candela is the basic unit of luminous intensity. It is the intensity of a source of light of a specified frequency, which gives a specified amount of power in a given direction.

From the 7 basic units of the SI other units are derived for a variety of purposes. Only a few of are explained here as examples, there are many more. farad [F] The farad is the SI unit of the capacitance of an electrical system, that is, its capacity to store electricity. It is a rather large unit as defined and is more often used as a microfarad. It is named after the English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday (1791-1867). hertz [Hz] The hertz is the SI unit of the frequency of a periodic phenomenon. One hertz indicates that 1 cycle of the phenomenon occurs every second. For most work much higher frequencies are needed such as the kilohertz [kHz] and megahertz [MHz]. It is named after the German physicist Heinrich Rudolph Hertz (1857-94).

joule [J] The joule is the SI unit of work or energy. One joule is the amount of work done when an applied force of 1 newton moves through a distance of 1 metre in the direction of the force.It is named after the English physicist James Prescott Joule (1818-89). newton [N] The newton is the SI unit of force. One newton is the force required to give a mass of 1 kilogram an acceleration of 1 metre per second per second. It is named after the English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). ohm [ ] The ohm is the SI unit of resistance of an electrical conductor. Its symbol, is the capital Greek letter 'omega'. It is named after the German physicist Georg Simon Ohm (1789-1854). pascal [Pa] The pascal is the SI unit of pressure. One pascal is the pressure generated by a force of 1 newton acting on an area of 1 square metre. It is a rather small unit as defined and is more often used as a kilopascal [kPa]. It is named after the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-62). volt [V] The volt is the SI unit of electric potential. One volt is the difference of potential between two points of an electical conductor when a current of 1 ampere flowing between those points dissipates a power of 1 watt. It is named after the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Giuseppe Anastasio Volta (1745-1827). watt [W] The watt is used to measure power or the rate of doing work. One watt is a power of 1 joule per second. It is named after the Scottish engineer James Watt (1736-1819).

The S I allows the sizes of units to be made bigger or smaller by the use of appropriate prefixes. For example, the electrical unit of a watt is not a big unit even in terms of ordinary household use, so it is generally used in terms of 1000 watts at a time. The prefix for 1000 is kilo so we use kilowatts[kW] as our unit of measurement. For makers of electricity, or bigger users such as industry, it is common to use megawatts[MW] or even gigawatts[GW]. The full range of prefixes with their [symbols or abbreviations] and their multiplying factors which are also given in other forms is

yotta [Y] zetta [Z] exa [E] peta [P] tera [T] giga [G] billion) mega [M] kilo [k] 1 1 1 1 1 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 = 10^24 = 10^21 = 10^18 = 10^15 = 10^12 (a thousand millions = a (a million) (a thousand)

hecto [h] 100 deca [da]10 1 deci [d] 0.1 centi [c] 0.01 milli [m] 0.001 micro [] 0.000 nano [n] 0.000 pico [p] 0.000 femto [f] 0.000 atto [a] 0.000 zepto [z] 0.000 yocto [y] 0.000

(a hundred) (ten) (a tenth) (a hundredth) (a thousandth) (a millionth) (a thousand millionth) = 10^-12 = 10^-15 001 = 10^-18 000 001 = 10^-21 000 000 001 = 10^-24

[] the symbol used for micro is the Greek letter known as 'mu' Nearly all of the S I prefixes are multiples (kilo to yotta) or sub-multiples (milli to yocto) of 1000. However, these are inconvenient for many purposes and so hecto, deca, deci, and centi are also used. deca also appears as deka [da] or [dk] in the USA and Contintental Europe. So much for standards!

There are various rules laid down for the use of the SI and its units as well as some observations to be made that will help in its correct use.

Any unit may take only ONE prefix. For example 'millimillimetre' is incorrect and should be written as 'micrometre'. Most prefixes which make a unit bigger are written in capital letters (M G T etc.), but when they make a unit smaller then lower case (m n p etc.) is used. Exceptions to this are the kilo [k] to avoid any possible confusion with kelvin [K]; hecto [h]; and deca [da] or [dk] It will be noted that many units are eponymous, that is they are named after persons. This is always someone who was prominent in the early work done within the field in which the unit is used. Such a unit is written all in lower case (newton, volt, pascal etc.) when named in full, but starting with a capital letter (N V Pa etc.) when abbreviated. An exception to this rule is the litre which, if written as a lower case 'l' could be mistaken for a '1' (one) and so a capital 'L' is allowed as an alternative. It is intended that a single letter will be decided upon some time in the future when it becomes clear which letter is being favoured most in use. Units written in abbreviated form are NEVER pluralised. So 'm' could always be either 'metre' or 'metres'. 'ms' would represent 'millisecond'. An abbreviation (such as J N g Pa etc.) is NEVER followed by a full-stop unless it is the end of a sentence. To make numbers easier to read they may be divided into groups of 3 separated by

The SI preferred way of showing a decimal fraction is to use a comma (123,456) to separate the whole number from its fractional part. The practice of using a point, as is common in English-speaking countries, is acceptable providing only that the point is placed ON the line of the bottom edge of the numbers (123.456) and NOT in the middle.

One of the earliest types of measurement concerned that of length. These measurements were usually based on parts of the body. A well documented example (the first) is the Egyptian cubit which was derived from the length of the arm from the elbow to the outstretched finger tips. By 2500 BC this had been standardised in a royal master cubit made of black marble (about 52 cm). This cubit was divided into 28 digits (roughly a finger width) which could be further divided into fractional parts, the smallest of these being only just over a millimetre. In England units of measurement were not properly standardised until the 13th century, though variations (and abuses) continued until long after that. For example, there were three different gallons (ale, wine and corn) up until 1824 when the gallon was standardised. In the U S A the system of weights and measured first adopted was that of the English, though a few differences came in when decisions were made at the time of standardisation in 1836. For instance, the wine-gallon of 231 cubic inches was used instead of the English one (as defined in 1824) of about 277 cubic inches. The U S A also took as their standard of dry measure the old Winchester bushel of 2150.42 cubic inches, which gave a dry gallon of nearly 269 cubic inches. Even as late as the middle of the 20th century there were some differences in UK and US measures which were nominally the same. The UK inch measured 2.53998 cm while the US inch was 2.540005 cm. Both were standardised at 2.54 cm in July 1959, though the U S continued to use 'their' value for several years in land surveying work - this too is slowly being metricated. In France the metric system officially started in June 1799 with the declared intent of being 'For all people, for all time'. The unit of length was the metre which was defined as being one ten-millionth part of a quarter of the earth's circumference. The production of this standard required a very careful survey to be done which took several years. However, as more accurate instruments became available so the 'exactness' of the standard was called into question. Later efforts were directed at finding some absolute standard based on an observable physical phenomenon. Over two centuries this developed into the S I. So maybe their original slogan was more correct than anyone could have foreseen then.

Length 10 millimetres = 1 = 1 sq. cm 10 centimetres = 1 sq. metre 10 decimetres = 1 are 10 metres = 1 hectare 10 decametres = 1 metres = 1 hectare 10 hectometres = 1 sq. kilometre 1000 metres = 1 sq. kilometre 1000 centilitre 1000 decilitre 1000 litre 1 million cu. metre centimetre decimeter metre decametre hectometre kilometre kilometre Area 100 sq. mm 10 000 sq. cm = 1

1 000 000 sq. metres = 1 Capacity 10 millilitres = 1 10 centilitree = 1 10 decilitres 1000 litres = 1 = 1

Volume cu. mm = 1 cu. cm cu. cm = 1 cu. decimetre cu. dm = 1 cu. metre cu. cm = 1 cu. metre

The distinction between 'Volume' and 'Capacity' is artificial and kept here only for historic reasons. A millitre is a cubic centimetre and a cubic decimetre is a litre. But see under 'Volume' for problems with the litre.

12 3 22 10 8 5280 1760 Length inches = feet = yards = chains = furlongs = feet = yards = 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 foot yard chain furlong mile mile mile Area 144 sq. inches = 1 square foot 9 sq. feet = 1 square yard 4840 sq. yards = 1 acre 640 acres = 1 square mile Capacity 20 fluid ounces = 1 pint

Volume 1728 cu. inches = 1 cubic foot 27 cu. feet = 1 cubic yard pints) Mass 437.5 grains 16 ounces 14 pounds grains) 8 stones grains) 20 cwt 20 3 8 20 (Avoirdupois) = 1 ounce = 1 pound (7000 grains) = 1 stone = 1 hundredweight [cwt] = 1 ton (2240 pounds) Measures fl.scruple fl.drachm fl.ounce pint

Troy Weights 24 grains = 1 pennyweight 20 pennyweights = 1 ounce (480 12 ounces = 1 pound (5760

20 3 8 12

The old Imperial (now UK) system was originally defined by three standard measures the yard, the pound and the gallon which were held in London. They are now defined by reference to the S I measures of the metre, the kilogram and the litre. These equivalent measures are exact. 1 yard = 0.9144 metres - same in US 1 pound = 0.453 592 37 kilograms - same in US 1 gallon = 4.546 09 litres - different in US Note particularly that the UK gallon is a different size to the US gallon so that NO liquid measures of the same name are the same size in the UK and US systems. Also that the ton(UK) is 2240 pounds while a ton(US) is 2000 pounds. These are also referred to as a long ton and short ton respectively. Return to the top of this document

Metrication in the U K

There have been three major Weights and Measures Acts in recent times (1963, 1976 and 1985) all gradually abolishing various units, as well re-defining the standards. All the Apothecaries' measures are now gone, and of the Troy measures, only the ounce remains. The legislation decreed that From the 1st October 1995, for economic, public health, public safety and administrative purposes, only metric units were to be allowed EXCEPT that

pounds and ounces for weighing of goods sold from bulk pints and fluid ounces for beer, cider, waters, lemonades and fruit juices in RETURNABLE containers therms for gas supply

could be used until 31st December 1999. The following could continue to be used WITHOUT time limit

miles, yards, feet and inches for road traffic signs and related measurements of speed and distance pints for dispensing draught beer and cider, and for milk in RETURNABLE containers acres for land registration purposes troy ounces for transactions in precious metals.

Sports were exempt from all of this, but most of them have (voluntarily) changed their relevant regulations into statements of equivalent metric measures. That was how the legislation was framed. In common usage the 'old' units are still very apparent.

1950 The Hodgson Report was published which, after arguing all the points for and against, favoured a change to metric. 1963 Weights and Measures Act defined the basic measures of the 'yard' and the 'pound' in terms of the 'metre' and the 'kilogram'. Many of the old imperial measures were abolished (drachm, scruple, minim, chaldron, quarter, rod, pole, perch, and a few more) 1971 Currency was Decimalised 1985 Weights and Measures Act abolished several more imperial measures for purposes of trade, and defined the 'gallon' in terms of the 'litre'. Thus, all the measures had been metricated even if the public hadn't!

Most of the US system of measurements is the same as that for the UK. The biggest differences to be noted are in Capacity which has both liquid and dry measures as well as being based on a different standard - the US liquid gallon is smaller than the UK gallon. There is also a measurement known at the US survey foot. It is gradually being phased out as the maps and land plans are re-drawn under metrication. (The changeover is being made by putting 39.37 US survey feet = 12 metres)

Length 12 inches = 1 foot Area 144 sq. inches = 1 square foot

= = = = =

1 1 1 1 1

9 4840 640 1 36

= = = = =

1 1 1 1 1

Volume 1728 cu. inches = 1 cubic foot 27 cu. feet = 1 cubic yard Capacity (Dry) 2 pints 8 quarts 4 pecks (8 pints) = 1 quart = 1 peck = 1 bushel Capacity (Liquid) 16 fluid ounces = 1 pint 4 gills = 1 pint 2 pints = 1 quart 4 quarts = 1 gallon

Mass 437.5 grains = 16 ounces = 14 pounds = grains) 100 pounds = grains) 20 cwt =

1 ounce 1 pound (7000 grains) 1 stone 1 hundredweight [cwt] 1 ton (2000 pounds)

Troy Weights 24 grains = 1 pennyweight 20 pennyweights = 1 ounce (480 12 ounces = 1 pound (5760

20 3 8 12

As with the UK system these measures were originally defined by physical standard measures - the yard, the pound, the gallon and the bushel.They are now all defined by reference to the S I measures of the metre, the kilogram and the litre. These equivalent measures are exact. 1 yard = 0.9144 metres - same as UK 1 pound = 0.453 592 37 kilograms - same as UK 1 gallon (liquid) = 3.785 411 784 litres 1 bushel = 35.239 070 166 88 litres Note particularly that the US gallon is a different size to the UK gallon so that NO liquid measures of the same name are the same size in the US and UK systems. Also that the ton(US) is 2000 pounds while a ton(UK) is 2240 pounds. These are also referred to as a short ton and long ton respectively.

Categories of Units

length area density, area density, line power pressure

volume or capacity density, volume mass energy temperature force fuel consumption mass per unit length mass per unit area mass per unit volume

speed spread rate (by mass) spread rate (by volume) stress torque

List of Units

Units are listed in alphabetical order. Scanning can be speeded up by selecting the initial letter of the unit from these individual letters or groups

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - IJ - K - L - M N - O - PQ - R - S - T - UVW - XYZ

A to K A

acres angstroms ares astronomical units atmospheres ells (UK) ems (pica) ergs (energy) ergs (torque)

IJ

inches inches of mercury or water inches of rain (by mass) inches of rain (by volume) inches per minute etc. joules joules per hour etc.

B

barleycorns barrels (oil) bars British thermal units Btu/hour etc. bushels

F

Fahrenheit fathoms feet feet of water feet per hour etc. fluid ounces foot pounds-force foot pounds-force per minute etc. foot poundals furlongs

K

Kelvin kilocalories kilocalories per hour etc. kilograms-force kilogram-force metres (energy) kilogram-force metres (torque) kilogram-force metres per hour etc. kilogram-force per area kilograms kilograms per area

C

calories calories per hour etc. carats, metric Celsius centigrade centigrade heat units centilitres centimetres

G

gallons gallons per area gigajoules gigawatts

centimetres of mercury or water centimetres per minute etc. chains (surveyors') circular inches cubic (+ any units) cubic measures per area cubits

grains grains per gallon grams gram-force centimetres grams per area grams per cm grams per (any volume)

D

decilitres denier drex dynes

H

hands hectares hides horsepower horsepower hours hundredweights

kilograms per metre kilograms per volume kilojoules kilojoules per hour etc. kilometres kilometres per hour etc. kilometres per litre kilonewton per square metre kilonewtons kilopascals kilowatts kilowatt hours kips (force) kips per square inch knots

L to Z L

leagues light years links (surveyors') litres litres per area

O

ounces ounces per inch ounces per area ounces per volume

M

Mach number megajoules meganewtons meganewtons per square metre megawatts metres

metres of water metres per second etc. microns (=micrometres) miles miles per gallon miles per hour etc. millibars milligrams per cm milligrams per (any volume) millilitres Rankine millimetres of mercury or water Reaumur millimetres of rain (by mass) roods

tex therms tonnes ton-force metres tonnes-force PQ tonnes-force per area parsecs tonnes per hectare pascals tonnes per km perch (=rods or poles) tonnes per volume picas ton-force feet pints tons points (printers') tons-force poundals tons-force per area poundals per square foot tons per acre pounds tons per mile pounds per area tons per volume pounds per foot townships pounds per volume troy ounce pounds-force UVW pound-force inches pounds-force per area watt second quarts watt hours watts R

XYZ

N

newton metres (energy) newton metres (torque) newtons (per area) newtons (force) newtons (weight)

S

slugs (or g-pounds) stones square (+ any units) squares (of timber) sthenes

Length

The S I unit of length is the metre. To change any of these other units of length into their equivalent values in metres use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy. Where some uncertainty is indicated it means that a good idea of the size of the unit can be given but that a better value would depend upon knowing the period and/or culture in which the unit was being used. Note than in matters concerned with land measurements, for the most accurate work, it is necessary to establish whether the US survey measures are being used or not.

angstroms astronomical units barleycorns centimetres chains (surveyors') cubits ells (UK) ems (pica) fathoms feet (UK and US) feet (US survey) furlongs hands inches kilometres leagues light years links (surveyors') metres [m] microns (=micrometres) miles (UK and US) miles (nautical) parsecs perch (=rods or poles) picas (computer) picas (printers') divide by 10 000 000 000 # x 149 598 550 000 x 0.008 467 x 0.01 # x 20.1168 # x (0.45 to 0.5) x 0.875 (but many variations) x 0.004 233 3 x 1.8288 # x x x x x x x x x 1 x x x x x x x 0.000 001 # 1609.344 # 1852 # 30 856 770 000 000 000 5.0292 # 0.004 233 333 0.004 217 518 0.3048 # 0.304 800 609 6 201.168 # 0.1016 # 0.0254 # 1000 # (4000 to 5000) 9 460 500 000 000 000 0.201 168 #

Area

The S I unit of area is the square metre. To change any of these other units of area into their equivalent values in square metres use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy. Where some uncertainty is indicated it means that a good idea of the size of the unit can be given but that a better value would depend upon knowing the period and/or culture in which the unit was being used. Note than in matters concerned with land measurements, for the most accurate work, it is necessary to establish whether the US survey measures are being used or not.

acres x ares x circular inches x hectares x hides x roods x square centimetres x square feet (UK and US) square feet (US survey) square inches x square kilometres x square metres square miles square millimetres squares (of timber) square rods (or poles) square yards townships 1 x x x x x x 2 589 988.110 336 # 0.000 001 # 9.290 304 # 25.292 852 64 # 0.836 127 36 # 93 239 571.972 4046.856 422 4 # 100 # 0.000 506 707 479 10 000 # 485 000 (with wide variations) 1011.714 105 6 # 0.000 1 # x 0.092 903 04 # x 0.092 903 411 613 0.000 645 16 # 1 000 000 #

Volume or Capacity

The S I unit of volume is the cubic metre. However, this seems to be much less used than the litre (1000 litres = 1 cubic metre).To change any of these other units of volume into their equivalent values in litres use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy. The litre. There can be some ambiguity about the size of the litre. When the metric system was introduced in the 1790's the litre was intended to match up with the volume occupied by 1 kilogram of pure water at a specified pressure and temperature. As the ability to measure things got better (by 100 years later) they found that there was a

mismatch between the kilogram and the litre. As a result of this they had to redefine the litre (in 1901) as being 1.000028 cubic decimetres. Very handy! This nonsense was stopped in 1964 when it was ruled that the word "litre" may be employed as a special name for the cubic decimetre, with the additional recommendation that for really accurate work, to avoid any possible confusion, the litre should not be used. Here the litre is taken as being a cubic decimetre.

barrels (oil) bushels (UK) bushels (US) centilitres cubic centimetres cubic decimetres cubic decametres cubic feet cubic inches cubic metres cubic millimetres cubic yards decilitres fluid ounces (UK) fluid ounces (US) gallons (UK) gallons, dry (US) gallons, liquid (US) litres [l or L] litres (1901 - 1964) millilitres pints (UK) pints, dry (US) pints, liquid (US) quarts (UK) quarts, dry (US) quarts, liquid (US) x x x x x 1 x x x x x x x x x x x x 1 x x x x x x x x 1.000 0.001 0.568 0.550 0.473 1.136 1.101 0.946 028 # 261 610 176 522 220 352 158.987 294 928 # 36.368 72 # 35.239 070 166 88 # 0.01 # 0.001 # 1 000 000 # 28.316 846 592 # 0.016 387 064 # 1000 # 0.000 001 # 764.554 857 984 # 0.1 # 0.028 413 062 5 # 0.029 573 529 562 5 # 4.546 09 # 4.404 883 770 86 # 3.785 411 784 #

The S I unit of mass is the kilogram. To change any of these other units of mass into their equivalent values in kilograms use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

carats, metric grains grams x 0.000 2 # x 0.000 064 798 91 # x 0.001 #

hundredweights, long hundredweights, short kilograms [kg] ounces, avoirdupois ounces, troy pounds slugs (or g-pounds) stones tons (UK or long) tons (US or short) tonnes

x 50.802 345 44 # x 45.359 237 # 1 x x x x x x x x 0.028 349 523 125 # 0.031 103 476 8 # 0.453 592 37 # 14.593 903 6.350 293 18 # 1016.046 908 8 # 907.184 74 # 1000 #

Temperature

There have been five main temperature scales, each one being named after the person who invented it. G D FAHRENHEIT (1686-1736) a German physicist, in about 1714 proposed the first practical scale. He called the freezing-point of water 32 degrees (so as to avoid negative temperatures) and the boiling-point 212 degrees. R A F de REAUMUR (1673-1757) A French entomologist, proposed a similar scale in 1730, but set the freezing-point at 0 degrees and the boiling-point at 80 degrees. This was used quite a bit but is now obsolete. Anders CELSIUS (1701-1744) a Swedish astronomer, proposed the 100-degree scale (from 0 to 100) in 1742. This was widely adopted as the centigrade scale. But since grades and centigrades were also measures of angle, in 1947 it officially became the Celsius scale. Also, the S I system of units gives preference to naming units after people where possible. William Thomson, 1st Lord KELVIN (1824-1907) a Scottish mathematician and physicist, worked with J P Joule - about 1862 - to produce an absolute scale of temperature based on laws of heat rather than the freezing/boiling-points of water. This work produced the idea of 'absolute zero', a temperature below which it was not possible to go. Its value is -273.15 degrees on the Celsius scale. William J M RANKINE (1820-1872) a Scottish engineer and scientist, promoted the Kelvin scale in its Fahrenheit form, when the equivalent value of absolute zero is -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. Nowadays, while scientists use the KELVIN scale, the CELSIUS scale is the preferred scale in our everyday lives. However, the Fahrenheit scale is still widely used and there frequently is a need to be able to change from one to the other.

To change temperature given in Fahrenheit (F) to Celsius (C) Start with (F); subtract 32; multiply by 5; divide by 9; the answer is (C) To change temperature given in Celsius (C) to Fahrenheit (F)

multiply by 9;

divide by 5;

add on 32;

the

Line density

Line density is a measure of mass per unit length. The S I compatible unit of line density is kilograms/metre. A major use of line density is in the textile industry to indicate the coarseness of a yarn or fibre. For that purpose the SI unit is rather large so the preferred unit there is the tex. (1 tex = 1 gram/kilometre) To change any of these other units of line density into their equivalent values in kilograms/metre use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

denier drex grams/centimetre grams/kilometre (tex) grams/metre grams/millimetre kilograms/kilometre kilograms/metre milligrams/centimetre milligrams/millimetre ounces/inch ounces/foot pounds/inch pounds/foot pounds/yard pounds/mile tex tons(UK)/mile tons(US)/mile tonnes/kilometre divide divide divide divide divide 1 divide 1 divide by 10 000 # divide by 1000 # x 1.116 125 x 0.093 01 x 17.858 x 1.488 164 x 0.496 055 x 0.000 281 849 divide by 1 000 000 # x 0.631 342 x 0.563 698 1 by 9 000 000 # by 10 000 000 # by 10 # by 1 000 000 # by 1000 # by 1000 #

Density

Density is the shortened term generally used in place of the more accurate description volumetric density.It is a measure of mass per unit volume. The S I compatible unit of density is kilograms/cubic metre. However, this a rather large unit for most purposes (iron is over 7000, wood is about 600 and even cork is over 200). A much more useful size of unit is kilograms/litre (for which the previous values then become 7, 0.6 and 0.2 respectively). This unit also has the great advantage of being numerically unchanged for grams/cubic centimetre and tonnes/cubic metre (or megagrams/cubic metre). To change

any of these other units of density into their equivalent values in kilograms/litre use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

grains/gallon(UK) grains/gallon(US) grams/cubic centimetre grams/litre grams/millilitre kilograms/cubic metre megagrams/cubic metre milligrams/millilitre milligrams/litre kilograms/litre ounces/cubic inch ounces/gallon(UK) ounces/gallon(US) pounds/cubic inch pounds/cubic foot pounds/gallon(UK) pounds/gallon(US) tonnes/cubic metre tons(UK)/cubic yard tons(US)/cubic yard divide divide 1 divide 1 divide 1 divide divide 1 x x x x x x x 1 x x 1.729 994 044 0.006 236 023 0.007 489 152 27.679 905 0.016 018 463 0.099 776 373 0.119 826 427 1.328 939 184 1.186 552 843 by by 70 157 58 418

Energy or work

There is a lot of room for confusion in some of the units used here. The calorie can take 5 different values and, while these do not vary by very much, for accurate work it is necessary to specify which calorie is being used. The 5 calories are known as the International Table calorie = cal(IT) thermochemical calorie = cal(th) mean calorie = cal(mean) 15 degree C calorie = cal(15C) 20 degree C calorie = cal(20C). Unless a clear statement is made saying otherwise, assume the IT calorie is being used. As a further complication, in working with food and expressing nutritional values, the unit of a Calorie (capital C) is often used to represent 1000 calories, and again it is necessary to specify which calorie is being used for that. The British thermal unit (Btu) can also take different values and they are named in a similar way to the calorie, that is Btu (IT), (th), etc. Also note that the therm is 100 000 Btu so its exact size depends on which Btu is being used. The S I unit of energy or work is the joule. To change any of these other units of energy or work into their equivalent values in joules use the operation and conversion factor

given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

British thermal units(IT)x 1055.056 Btu (th) x 1054.350 Btu (mean) x 1055.87 calories - cal (IT) x 4.1868 # - cal (th) x 4.184 # - cal (mean) x 4.190 02 - cal (15C) x 4.185 80 - cal (20C) x 4.181 90 Calorie (food) x 4186 (approx.) centigrade heat units x 1900.4 ergs divide by 10 000 000 # foot pounds-force x 1.355 818 foot poundals x 0.042 140 gigajoules [GJ] x 1000 000 000 # horsepower hours x 2 684 520 (approx.) joules [J] kilocalories (IT) kilocalories (th) kilogram-force metres kilojoules [kJ] kilowatt hours [kWh] megajoules [MJ] newton metres [Nm] therms watt seconds [Ws] watt hours [Wh] 1 x x x x x x x x 1 x 4186.8 # 4184 # 9.806 65 # 1000 # 3 600 000 # 1 000 000 # 1 # 105 500 000 (approx.) 3600 #

Force

The S I unit of force is the newton. To change any of these other units of force into their equivalent values in newtons use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

dynes kilograms force kilonewtons [kN] kips meganewtons [MN] newtons [N] pounds force poundals sthenes (=kN) tonnes force tons(UK) force tons(US) force divide by 100 000 # x 9.806 65 # x 1000 # x 4448.222 x 1 000 000 # 1 x x x x x x 4.448 222 0.138 255 1000 9806.65 # 9964.016 8896.443

Fuel Consumption

Fuel consumption of any means of transport (car, aeroplane, ship etc.) that uses fuel is a measure giving the relationship between the distance travelled for an amount of fuel used. The most common example is the car where it is usually expressed (in English-speaking countries) in miles per gallon. It could also be expressed in gallons per mile. However, for a car the latter method gives a rather small figure: 35 miles per gallon is about 0.0286 gallons per mile. In that case it would be better to give a figure for 100 miles, so it would be 2.86 gallons per 100 miles. That is the metric way of expressing fuel consumption - as litres per 100 kilometres. From regular enquiries it appears that in real life people are using all sorts of ways of expressing their fuel consumption, so this section (unlike all the others) tries to cover as many ways as possible. All the values are given to an accuracy of 4 significant figures.

To change miles per miles per miles per miles per miles miles miles miles per per per per into miles per gallon (US) multiply by 0.833 miles per litre multiply by 0.22 miles per gallon (UK) multiply by 4.546 kilometres per litre multiply by 0.354 miles per gallon (UK) multiply by 1.2 miles per litre multiply by 0.2642 miles per gallon (US) multiply by 3.785 kilometres per litre multiply by 0.4251 gallons per 100 miles: divide 100 by X (both gallons must of the same type)

gallon (UK) gallon (UK) litre gallon (UK) gallon (US) gallon (US) litre gallon (US)

miles per gallon (UK) litres per 100 km: divide 282.5 by X miles per gallon (US) litres per 100 km: divide 235.2 by X km per litre litres per 100 km: divide 100 by X miles per litre litres per 100 km: divide 62.14 by X

Power

Since power is a measure of the rate at which work is done, the underlying units are those of work or energy, and that section should be looked at for explanations concerning the calorie and Btu. In this section the (IT) values have been used. In this section it is the horsepower which provides confusion. Just like the calorie, it can take 5 different values, and these are identified as necessary by the addition of (boiler), (electric), (metric), (UK) and (water). Unlike the calorie (whose 5 values are reasonably close to each other), the horsepower has 4 which are close and 1 (boiler) which is considerably different - it is about 13 times bigger than the others - but it seems to be very little used. The S I unit of power is the watt. To change any of these other units of energy or work

into their equivalent values in watts use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

Btu/hour Btu/minute Btu/second calories/hour calories/minute calories/second ft lb-force/minute ft lb-force/second gigawatts [GW] horsepower (electric) horsepower (metric) watts [W] joules/hour joules/minute joules/second kilocalories/hour kilocalories/minute kg-force metres/hour kg-force metres/minute kilowatts [kW] megawatts [MW] x x x x x x x x x x x 1 divide by 3600 # divide by 60 # 1 x 1.163 x 69.78 x 0.002 724 x 0.163 444 x 1000 # x 1 000 000 # 0.293 071 17.584 267 1055.056 0.001 163 # 0.069 78 # 4.1868 # 0.022 597 1.355 82 1 000 000 000 746 # 735.499

Pressure or Stress

The S I unit of pressure is the pascal. The units of pressure are defined in the same way as those for stress - force/unit area. To change any of these other units of pressure (or stress) into their equivalent values in pascals use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy. Measures based on water assume a density of 1 kg/litre - a value which is rarely matched in the real world, though the error is small.

atmospheres bars centimetres of mercury centimetres of water feet of water hectopascals [hPa] inches of water inches of mercury kg-force/sq.centimetre kg-force/sq.metre kilonewton/sq.metre kilopascal [kPa] kips/sq.inch meganewtons/sq.metre x x x x x x x x x x x x x x 101 325 # 100 000 # 1333.22 98.066 5 # 2989.066 92 # 100 # 249.088 91 # 3386.388 98 066.5 # 9.806 65 # 1000 # 1000 # 6 894 760 1 000 000 #

metres of water millibars pascals [Pa] millimetres of mercury millimetres of water newtons/sq.centimetre newtons/sq.metre newtons/sq.millimetre pounds-force/sq.foot pounds-force/sq.inch poundals/sq.foot tons(UK)-force/sq.foot tons(UK)-force/sq.inch tons(US)-force/sq.foot tons(US)-force/sq.inch tonnes-force/sq.cm tonnes-force/sq.metre

x 9806.65 # x 100 # 1 x x x 1 x x x x x x x x x x 133.322 9.806 65 # 10 000 1 000 000 # 47.880 6894.757 1.448 16 107 252 15 444 256 95 760 13 789 500 98 066 500 # 9806.65 #

Speed

The S I compatible unit of speed is metres/second. To change any of these other units of speed into their equivalent values in metres/second use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

centimetres/minute centimetres/second feet/hour feet/minute feet/second inches/minute inches/second kilometres/hour kilometres/second knots Mach number metres/hour metres/minute metres/second [m/s] miles/hour miles/minute miles/second yards/hour yards/minute yards/second divide by 6000 # divide by 100 # divide by 11 811 x 0.005 08 # x 0.3048 # divide by 2362.2 x 0.0254 # divide by 3.6 # x 1000 # x 0.514 444 x 331.5 divide by 3600 # divide by 60 # 1 x 0.447 04 # x 26.8224 # x 1609.344 # divide by 3937 x 0.015 24 # x 0.9144 #

The spread rate of a substance is a measure of how much of it there is covering a unit area. The 'how much' can be measured by volume or by mass. The S I compatible unit of spread rate by mass is kilograms/square metre. It is also a measure of area density (mass/unit area) and is similar to - but not the same as - pressure, which is force/unit area. For the rainfall conversions a density of 1 kg/litre has been assumed. To change any of these other units of spread rate into their equivalent values in kilograms/square metre use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy. The conversion for rainfall assumes a density of 1 kg/litre which is accurate enough for all practical purposes.

grams/sq.centimetre x 10 # grams/sq.metre divide inches of rainfall x 2.54 kilograms/hectare divide kilograms/sq.centimetre milligrams/sq.metre divide millimetres of rainfall kilograms/sq.metre ounces/sq.foot ounces/sq.inch ounces/sq.yard pounds/acre pounds/sq.foot pounds/sq.inch pounds/sq.yard tonnes/hectare tons(UK)/acre tons(US)/acre 1 x 0.305 152 x 43.942 divide by 49.494 divide by 8921.791 x 4.882 428 x 703.07 x 0.542 492 divide by 10 # divide by 3.982 942 divide by 4.460 896

The spread rate of a substance is a measure of how much of it there is covering a unit area. The 'how much' can be measured by volume or by mass. The S I compatible unit of spread rate by volume is cubic metres/square metre. However, this is a rather large unit for most purposes and so litres/square metre is often preferred. To change any of these other units of spread rate into their equivalent values in litres/square metre use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

cubic cubic cubic cubic feet/acre inches/sq.yard yards/sq.mile metres/hectare divide divide divide divide by by by by 142.913 51.024 3387.577 10 #

cubic metres/sq.km divide by 1000 # cubic metres/sq.metre x 1000 # fl. ounces(UK)/sq.yard divide by 29.428 litres/square metre 1 by by by by # by by 1 890.184 1069.066 2199.692 2641.721 10 000 # 1000 #

gallons(UK)/acre divide gallons(US)/acre divide gallons(UK)/hectare divide gallons(US)/hectare divide inches of rainfall x 25.4 litres/hectare divide millilitres/sq.metre divide millimetres of rainfall

Torque

The S I compatible unit of torque is the newton metre. To change any of these other units of torque into their equivalent values in newton metres use the operation and conversion factor given. Those marked with # are exact. Other values are given to an appropriate degree of accuracy.

dyne centimetres gram-force centimetres kg-force centimetres kg-force metres newton centimetres newton metres [Nm] ounce-force inches pound-force inches pound-force feet poundal feet ton(UK)-force feet ton(US)-force feet tonne-force metres divide by 10 000 000 # x 0.000 098 066 5 # x 0.098 066 5 # x 9.806 65 # divide by 100 # 1 divide by 141.612 x 0.112 984 x 1.355 818 x 0.042 140 x 3 037.032 x 2 711.636 x 9 806.65 #

Conversion Tables of Units for Science and Engineering by Ari L Horvath Macmillan Reference Books, London, 1986 (147 pages) ISBN 0 333 40857 8 The Weights and Measures of England by R D Connor H M S O, London, 1987 (422 pages) ISBN 0 460 86137 9 A scholarly and detailed account of the history of the development of the British

Probably the most comprehensive set of conversion factors in print, covering both old and modern units. There are 77 tables covering categories from Length to Radiation dosage. The Length table alone lists 107 units together with the conversion factors needed to change each one into metres. The Dent Dictionary of Measurement by Darton and Clark J M Dent, London, 1994 (538 pages) ISBN 0 460 861379 Very comprehensive coverage of all kinds of units (including currencies), ordered in conventional dictionary form, and giving several conversion factors. The Economist Desk Companion Random Century, London, 1992 (272 pages) ISBN 0 7126 9816 7 A handy compendium of units used in Science, Medicine, Engineering, Industry, Commerce, Finance and many other places, together with all the necessary conversion factors. There is also much other incidental (but related) information. The Encyclopaedia Britannica The modern E B has many references to units, but extensive use needs to be made of the index to find them all. It gives a wide selection of weights and measures from countries around the world and the appropriate conversion factors. World Weights and Measures Statistical Office of the United Nations, New York 1955 (225 pages) A very comprehensive survey of each country in the world (as it was then) from Aden to Zanzibar, giving the units used in each for Length, Area and Capacity with their British and Metric equivalents. There is an appendix on the measures used for selected commodities. Currencies are also given. The indexes are very thorough.

(Imperial) system of weights and measures from the earliest times. British Weights and Measures by R E Zupko A history from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century The University of Wisconsin Press, 1977 [248 pages] ISBN 0 299 07340 8 The actual history occupies only 100 pages. There is then an extensive list of the various units used in commerce, tables of many pre-Imperial units, a long list of premetric measures used in Europe together with their British and metric equivalents, and nearly 40 pages giving other sources. The World of Measurements by H Arthur Klein Allen and Unwin, London, 1975 (736 pages) ISBN 0 04 500024 7 A very readable and comprehensive account of the history of units used in measuring, from the earliest known beginnings and around the world. Scientific Unit Conversion by Francois Cardarelli Springer-Verlag, London, 1997 (456 pages) ISBN 3-540-76022-9 It claims "This practical manual aims to be the most comprehensive work on the subject of unit conversion. It contains more than 10 000 precise conversion factors." It is certainly a very chunky and compact (= handy-sized) book. Comprehensive it certainly is but still not complete. However, with its very wide coverage, both historical and modern, it should certainly satisfy nearly all users.

By Donald E. Simanek, Lock Haven University. Technical terms of science have very specific meanings. Standard dictionaries are not always the best source of useful and correct definitions of them. This glossary is not intended to be complete. It focuses on those terms which give students particular difficulties. Some words have subtle and intricate meanings which cannot be encapsulated in a short definition. That's why textbooks exist. A good glossary for elementary physics may be found in Appendix G-1 of Kirkpatrick & Wheeler, Physics, A World View, Saunders, 1992. This document is continually under development and may never be finished. Input and suggestions for additional troublesome terms, or for clearer statements about these, are invited. Use the address at the right. Links are built into this document. Feel free to use your browsers search and find tools to extend its usefulness. A related document, Jack Holden's Illustrated Dictionary of Physics has additional cartoon definitions, not included in this document. Accurate. Conforming closely to some standard. Having very small error of any kind. See: Uncertainty. Compare: precise. Absolute uncertainty. The uncertainty in a measured quantity is due to inherent variations in the measurement process itself. The uncertainty in a result is due to the combined and accumulated effects of these measurement uncertainties which were used in the calculation of that result. When these uncertainties are expressed in the same units as the quantity itself they are called absolute uncertainties. Uncertainty values are usually attached to the quoted value of an experimental measurement or result, one common format being: (quantity) (absolute uncertainty in that quantity). Compare: relative uncertainty.

Action. This technical term is a historic relic of the 17th century, before energy and momentum were understood. In modern terminology, action has the dimensions of energytime. Planck's constant has those dimensions, and is therefore sometimes called Planck's quantum of action. Pairs of measurable quantities whose product has dimensions of energytime are called conjugate quantities in quantum mechanics, and have a special relation to each other, expressed in Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Unfortunately the word action persists in textbooks in meaningless statements of Newton's third law: "Action equals reaction." This statement is useless to the modern student, who hasn't the foggiest idea what action is. See: Newton's 3rd law for a useful definition. Also see Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Avogadro's constant. Avogadro's constant has the unit mole-1. It is not merely a number, and should not be called Avogadro's number. It is ok to say that the number of particles in a gram-mole is 6.02 x 1023. Some older books call this value Avogadro's number, and when that is done, no units are attached to it. This can be confusing and misleading to students who are conscientiously trying to learn how to balance units in equations. One must specify whether the value of Avogadro's constant is expressed for a gram-mole or a kilogram-mole. A few books prefer a kilogram-mole. The unit name for a gram-mole is simply mol. The unit name for a kilogram-mole is kmol. When the kilogram-mole is used, Avogadro's constant should be written: 6.02252 x 1026 kmol-1. The fact that Avogadro's constant has units further convinces us that it is not "merely a number." Though it seems inconsistent, the SI base unit is the gram-mole. As Mario Iona reminds me, SI is not an MKS system. Some textbooks still prefer to use the kilogram-mole, or worse, use it and the gram-mole. This affects their quoted values for the universal gas constant and the Faraday Constant. Is Avogadro's constant just a number? What about those textbooks which say "You could have a mole of stars, grains of sand, or people." In science we do use entities which are just numbers, such as , e, 3, 100, etc. Though these are used in science, their definitions are independent of science. No experiment of science can ever determine their value, except approximately. Avogadros constant, however, must be determined experimentally, for example by counting the number of atoms in a crystal. The value of Avogadro's number found in handbooks is an experimentally determined number. You won't discover its value experimentally by counting stars, grains of sand, or people. You find it only by counting atoms or molecules in something of known

relative molecular mass. And you won't find it playing any role in any equation or theory about stars, sand, or people. The reciprocal of Avogadro's constant is numerically equal to the unified atomic mass unit, u, that is, 1/12 the mass of the carbon 12 atom. 1 u = 1.66043 x 10-27 kg = 1/6.02252 x 1023 mole-1. Because. Here's a word best avoided in physics. Whenever it appears one can be almost certain that it's a filler word in a sentence which says nothing worth saying, or a word used when one can't think of a good or specific reason. While the use of the word because as a link in a chain of logical steps is benign, one should still replace it with words more specifically indicative of the type of link which is meant. See: Why? Illustrative fable: The seeker after truth sought wisdom from a Guru who lived as a hermit on top of a Himalayan mountain. After a long and arduous climb to the mountain-top the seeker was granted an audience. Sitting at the feet of the great Guru, the seeker humbly said: "Please, answer for me the eternal question: Why?" The Guru raised his eyes to the sky, meditated for a bit, then looked the seeker straight in the eye and answered, with an air of sagacious profundity, "Because!" Capacitance. The capacitance of a capacitor is measured by this procedure: Put equal and opposite charges on its plates and then measure the potential between the plates. Then C = |Q/V|, where Q is the charge on one of the plates. Capacitors for use in circuits consist of two conductors (plates). We speak of a capacitor as "charged" when it has charge Q on one plate, and -Q on the other. Of course the net charge of the entire object is zero; that is, the charged capacitor hasn't had net charge added to it, but has undergone an internal separation of charge. Unfortunately this process is usually called charging the capacitor, which is misleading because it suggests adding charge to the capacitor. In fact, this process usually consists of moving charge from one plate to the other. The capacitance of a single object, say an isolated sphere, is determined by considering the other plate to be an infinite sphere surrounding it. The object is given charge, by moving charge from the infinite sphere, which acts as an infinite charge reservoir ("ground"). The potential of the object is the potential between the object and the infinite sphere. Capacitance depends only on the geometry of the capacitor's physical structure and the dielectric constant of the material medium in which the capacitor's electric field exists. The size of the capacitor's capacitance is the same whatever

the charge and potential (assuming the dielectric constant doesn't change). This is true even if the charge on both plates is reduced to zero, and therefore the capacitor's potential is zero. If a capacitor with charge on its plates has a capacitance of, say, 2 microfarad, then its capacitance is also 2 microfarad when the plates have no charge. This should remind us that C = |Q/V| is not by itself the definition of capacitance, but merely a formula which allows us to relate the capacitance to the charge and potential when the capacitor plates have equal and opposite charge on them. A common misunderstanding about electrical capacitance is to assume that capacitance represents the maximum amount of charge a capacitor can store. That is misleading because capacitors don't store charge (their total charge being zero). They "separate charge" so that their plates have equal and opposite charge. It is wrong because the maximum charge one may put on a capacitor plate is determined by the potential at which dielectric breakdown occurs. Compare: capacity. We probably should avoid the phrases "charged capacitor", "charging a capacitor" and "store charge". Some have suggested the alternative expression "energizing a capacitor" because the process is one of giving the capacitor electrical potential energy by rearranging charges on it (or within it). Some who agree with most everything I have said on this topic still defend "stored charge". They say that the capacitor circuit separates charge and then stores equal and opposite charges on the capacitor plates presumably for release by discharge through a circuit (rather than by discharge within the capacitor). That's a correct description for it puts the capacitor in the context of the circuit to which it is attached. But the abbreviated phrase "The capacitor stores charge is still misleading and should be avoided unless it is explained as I have done here. And it's still more to the point to say the capacitor stores electrical potential energy. Capacity. This word is properly used in names of quantities which express the relative amount of some quantity with respect to a another quantity upon which it depends. For example, heat capacity is dU/dT, where U is the internal energy and T is the temperature. Electrical capacity, usually called capacitance is another example: C = |dQ/dV|, where Q is the magnitude of charge on each capacitor plate and V is the potential difference between the plates. Consistent use of the word "capacitance" for C avoids this conceptual error. But the same misconceptions can occur with the others, and we don't have other names for them which might help avoid this. Heat capacity isn't the maximum

amount of heat something can have. That would also incorrectly suggest that heat is a "substance", which it isn't. Centrifugal force. When a non-inertial rotating coordinate system is used to analyze motion, Newton's law F = ma is not correct unless one adds to the real forces a fictitious force called the centrifugal force. The centrifugal force required in the non-inertial system is equal and opposite to the centripetal force calculated in the inertial system. Since the centrifugal and centripetal forces are concepts used in two different formulations of the problem, they can not in any sense be considered a pair of reaction forces. Also, they act on the same body, not different bodies. See: centripetal force, action, and inertial systems. Centripetal force. The centripetal force is the radial component of the net force acting on a body when the problem is analyzed in an inertial system. The force is inward toward the instantaneous center of curvature of the path of the body. The size of the force is mv2/r, where r is the instantaneous radius of curvature. See: centrifugal force. cgs. The system of units based upon the fundamental metric units: centimeter, gram and second. Classical physics. The physics developed before about 1900, before we knew about relativity and quantum mechanics. See: modern physics. Closed system. A physical system on which no outside influences act; closed so that nothing gets in or out of the system and nothing from outside can influence the system's observable behavior or properties. Obviously we could never make measurements on a closed system unless we were in it, for no information about it could get out of it! In practice we loosen up the condition a bit, and only insist that there be no interactions with the outside world which would affect those properties of the system which are being studied. Besides, when the experimenter is a part of the system, all sorts of other problems arise. This is a dilemma physicists must deal with: the fact that if we take measurements, we are a part of the system, and must be very certain that we carry out experiments so that fact doesn't distort or prejudice the results. Conserved. A quantity is said to be conserved if under specified conditions it's value does not change with time. Example: In a closed system, the charge, mass, total energy, linear momentum and angular momentum of the system are conserved. (Relativity theory allows

that mass can be converted to energy and vice-versa, so we modify this to say that the mass-energy is conserved.) Current. The time rate at which charge passes through a circuit element or through a fixed place in a conducting wire, I = dq/dt. Misuse alert. A very common mistake found in textbooks is to speak of "flow of current". Current itself is a flow of charge; what, then, could "flow of current" mean? It is either redundant, misleading, or wrong. This expression should be purged from our vocabulary. Compare a similar mistake: "The velocity moves West." Data. The word data is the plural of datum. Examples of correct usage: "The data are reasonable, considering the" "The data were taken over a period of three days." "How well do the data confirm the theory?" Dependent variable. See variable. Derive. To derive a result or conclusion is to show, using logic and mathematics, how a conclusion follows logically from certain given facts and principles. Dimensions. The fundamental measurables of a unit system in physicsthose which are defined through operational definitions. All other measurable quantities in physics are defined through mathematical relations to the fundamental quantities. Therefore any physical measurable may be expressed as a mathematical combination of the dimensions. See: operational definitions. Example: In the MKSA (meter-kilogram-second-ampere) system of units, length, mass, time and current are the fundamental measurables, symbolically represented by L, M, T, and I. Therefore we say that velocity has the dimensions LT-1. Energy has the dimensions ML2T-2. Discrepancy. (1) Any deviation or departure from the expected. (2) A difference between two measurements or results. (3) A difference between an experimental determination of a quantity and its standard or accepted value, usually called the experimental discrepancy. Empirical law. A law strictly based on experiment, which may lack theoretical foundation. Electricity. This word names a branch or subdivision of physics, just as other subdivisions are named mechanics, thermodynamics, optics, etc. Misuse alert: Sometimes the word electricity is colloquially misused as if it named a physical quantity, such as "The capacitor stores electricity," or

"Electricity in a resistor produces heat." Such usage should be avoided! In all such cases there's available a more specific or precise word, such as "The capacitor stores electrical energy," "The resistor is heated by the electric current," and "The utility company charges me for the electric energy I use." (I am not being charged based on the power, so these companies shouldn't call themselves Power companies. Some already have changed their names to something like "... Energy") Energy. Energy is a property associated with a material body. Energy is not a material substance. When bodies interact, the energy of one may increase at the expense of the other, and this is sometimes called a transfer of energy. This does not mean that we could intercept this energy in transit and bottle some of it. After the transfer one of the bodies may have higher energy than before, and we speak of it as having "stored energy". But that doesn't mean that the energy is "contained in it" in the same sense as water in a bucket. Misuse example: "The earth's aurorasthe northern and southern lights illustrate how energy from the sun travels to our planet." Science News, 149, June 1, 1996. This sentence blurs understanding of the process by which energetic charged particles from the sun interact with the earth's magnetic field and our atmosphere to cause auroras. Whenever one hears people speaking of "energy fields", "psychic energy", and other expressions treating energy as a "thing" or "substance", you know they aren't talking physics, they are talking moonshine. In certain quack theories of oriental medicine, such as qi gong (pronounced chee gung) something called qi is believed to circulate through the body on specific, mappable pathways called meridians. This idea pervades the contrived explanations/rationalizations of acupuncture, and the qi is generally translated into English as energy. No one has ever found this so-called "energy", nor confirmed the uniqueness of its meridian pathways, nor verified, through proper double-blind tests, that any therapy or treatment based on the theory actually works. The proponents of qi can't say whether it is a fluid, gas, charge, current, or something else, and their theory requires that it doesn't obey any of the physics of known carriers of energy. But, as soon as we hear someone talking about it as if it were a thing we know they are not talking science, but quackery. The statement "Energy is a property of a body" needs clarification. As with many things in physics, the size of the energy depends on the coordinate system. A body moving with speed V in one coordinate system has kinetic energy mV2. The same body has zero kinetic energy in a coordinate system

moving along with it at speed V. Since no inertial coordinate system can be considered "special" or "absolute", we shouldn't say "The kinetic energy of the body is ..." but should say "The kinetic energy of the body moving in this reference frame is ..." Energy (take two). Elementary textbooks often say "there are many forms of energy, kinetic, potential, thermal, nuclear, etc. They can be converted from one form to another." Let's try to put more sturcture to this. There are really only two functional categories of energy. The energy associated with particles or systems can be said to be either kinetic energy or potential energy.

The kinetic energy of a particle of mass m and speed v is mv2. The kinetic energy of a system of particles is MV2 where M is the system mass and V is the speed of its center of mass. One part of a system's kinetic energy may be thermal energy due to disordered motions and vibrations of particles, on the microscopic scale of molecules, atoms, and even smaller particles. The potential energy of a system is always due to some other system exchanging energy with it by forces moving the system or parts of the system. Potential energy is a way of accounting for the work done by or on another system interacting with the system of interest. Gravitational potential energy is the work we must do against the force due to gravity to move an object to a new position. Once we have accounted for the effect of other systems we can treat our system as if it were "isolated", which is often convenient.

Systems may exchange energy in two ways, through work or heat. Work and heat are never in a body or system, they measure the energy transfered during interactions between systems. Work always requires motion of a system or parts of it, moving the system's center of mass. Heating does not require macroscopic motion of either system. It involves exchanges of energy between systems on the microscopic level, and does not move the center of mass of either system. Equal. [Not all "equals" are equal.] The word equal and the symbol "=" have many different uses. The dictionary warns that equal things are "alike or in agreement in a specified sense with respect to specified properties." This we must be careful about the specified sense and specified properties. The meaning of the mathematical symbol, "=" depends upon what stands on either side of it. When it stands between vectors it symbolizes that the vectors are equal in both size and direction.

In algebra the equal sign stands between two algebraic expressions and indicates that two expressions are related by a reflexive, symmetric and transitive relation. The mathematical expressions on either side of the "=" sign are mathematically identical and interchangeable in equations. When the equal sign stands between two mathematical expressions with physical meaning, it means something quite different. In physics we may correctly write 12 inches = 1 foot, but to write 12 = 1 is simply wrong. In the first case, the equation tells us about physically equivalent measurements. It has physical meaning, and the units are an indispensable part of the quantity. When we write a = dv/dt, we are defining the acceleration in terms of the time rate of change of velocity. One does not verify a definition by experiment. Experiment can, however, show that in certain cases (such as a freely falling body) the acceleration of the body is constant. The three-lined equal sign, , is often used to mean "defined equal to". When we write F = ma, we are expressing a relation between measurable quantities, one which holds under specified conditions, qualifications and limitations. There's more to it than the equation. One must, for example, specify that all measurements are made in an inertial frame, for if they aren't, this relation isn't correct as it stands, and must be modified. Many physical laws, including this one, also include definitions. This equation may be considered a definition of force, if m and a are previously defined. But if F was previously defined, this may be taken as a definition of mass. But the fact that this relation can be experimentally tested, and possibly be shown to be false (under certain conditions) demonstrates that it is more than a mere definition. Additional discussion of these points may be found in Arnold Arons' book A Guide to Introductory Physics Teaching, section 3.23, listed in the references at the end of this document. Usage note: When reading equations aloud we often say, "F equals m a". This, of course, says that the two things are mathematically equal in equations, and that one may replace the other. It is not saying that F is physically the same thing as ma. Perhaps equations were not meant to be read aloud, for the spoken word does not have the subtleties of meaning necessary for the task. At least we should realize that spoken equations are at best a shorthand approximation to the meaning; a verbal description of the symbols. If we were to try to speak the physical meaning, it would be something like: "Newton's law tells us that the net vector force acting on a body of mass m is mathematically equal to the

product of its mass and its vector acceleration." In a textbook, words like that would appear in the text near the equation, at least on the first appearance of the equation. Error. In colloquial usage, "a mistake". In technical usage error is a synonym for the experimental uncertainty in a measurement or result. See: uncertainty. Error analysis. The mathematical analysis done to show quantitatively how uncertainties in data produce uncertainty in calculated results, and to find the sizes of the uncertainty in the results. [In mathematics the word analysis is synonymous with calculus, or "a method for mathematical calculation." Calculus courses used to be named Analysis.] See: uncertainty Extensive property. A measurable property of a thermodynamic system is extensive if, when two identical systems are combined into one, the value of that property of the combined system is double its original value in each system. Examples: mass, volume, number of moles. See: intensive variable and specific. Experimental error. The uncertainty in the value of a quantity. This may be found from (1) statistical analysis of the scatter of data, or (2) mathematical analysis showing how data uncertainties affect the uncertainty of calculated results. Misuse alert: In elementary lab manuals one often sees: experimental error = | your value - book value| /book value. This should be called the experimental discrepancy. See: discrepancy. Factor. One of several things multiplied together. Misuse alert: Be careful that the reader does not confuse this with the colloquial usage: "One factor in the success of this experiment was" Fictitious force. See: inertial frames. Focal point. The focal point of a lens is defined by considering a narrow beam of light incident upon the lens, parallel to the optic (symmetry) axis of the lens and centered on that axis. The focal point is that point to which the rays converge or from which they diverge after passing through the lens. The convergent case defines a converging (positive) lens. The second case defines a diverging (negative) lens. Its easy to tell which kind of lens you have, for converging lenses are thicker at their center than at the edges, and diverging lenses are thinner at the center than at the edges.

FPS. The system of units based on the fundamental units of the English system: foot, pound and second. Function. A relation between the elements of one set, X (the domain), and the elements of another set, Y (the range), such that for each element in the domain X there's only one corresponding element in the range Y. When a function is written in the form of an equation relating values of variables, y = y(x), y must be single-valued, that is each value of x corresponds to only one value of y. While y = x2 is a function, x = y1/2 is not. Both equations express relations, however. Science deals with mathematical relations between measurements, not functions. Scientists often use the word function colloquially in the sense of "depends on" as in "Pressure is a function of volume and temperature", when they really mean "Pressure depends on volume and temperature." Heat. Heat, like work, is a measure of the amount of energy transferred from one body to another because of the temperature difference between those bodies. Heat is not energy possessed by a body. We should not speak of the "heat in a body." The energy a body possesses due to its temperature is a different thing, called internal thermal energy. The misuse of this word probably dates back to the 18th century when it was still thought that bodies undergoing thermal processes exchanged a substance, called caloric or phlogiston, a substance later called heat. We now know that heat is not a substance. Reference: Zemansky, Mark W. The Use and Misuse of the Word "Heat" in Physics Teaching" The Physics Teacher, 8, 6 (Sept 1970) p. 295300. See: work. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Pairs of measurable quantities whose product has dimensions of energytime are called conjugate quantities in quantum mechanics, and have a special relation to each other, expressed in Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. It says that the product of the uncertainties of the two quantities is no smaller than h/2 . Thus if you improve the measurement precision of one quantity the precision of the other gets worse. Misuse alert: Folks who don't pay attention to details of science, are heard to say "Heisenberg showed that you can't be certain about anything." We also hear some folk justifying belief in esp or psychic phenomena by appeal to the Heisenberg principle. This is wrong on several counts. (1) The precision of any measurement is never perfectly certain, and we knew that before Heisenberg. (2) The Heisenberg uncertainty principle tells us we can measure anything with arbitrarily small precision, but in the process some other measurement gets worse. (3) The uncertainties involved here affect only microscopic (atomic and

molecular level phenomena) and have no applicability to the macroscopic phenomena of everyday life. Hypothesis. An untested statement about nature; a scientific conjecture, or educated guess. Formally, a hypothesis is made prior to doing experiments designed to test it. Compare: law and theory. Ideal-lens equation. 1/p + 1/q = 1/f, where p is the distance from object to lens, q is the distance from lens to image, and f is the focal length of the lens. This equation has important limitations, being only valid for thin lenses, and for paraxial rays. Thin lenses have thickness small compared to p, q, and f. Paraxial rays are those which make angles small enough with the optic axis that the approximation (angle in radian measure) = sin(angle) may be used. See: optical sign conventions, and image. Independent variable. See variable. Inertia A descriptive term for that property of a body which resists change in its motion. Two kinds of changes of motion are recognized: changes in translational motion, and changes in rotational motion. In modern usage, the measure of translational inertia is mass. Newton's first law of motion is sometimes called the "Law of Inertia", a label which adds nothing to the meaning of the first law. Newton's first and second laws together are required for a full description of the consequences of a body's inertia. The measure of a body's resistance to rotation is its Moment of Inertia. Inertial frame. A non-accelerating coordinate system. One in which F = ma holds, where F is the sum of all real forces acting on a body of mass m whose acceleration is a. In classical mechanics, the real forces on a body are those which are due to the influence of another body. [Or, forces on a part of a body due to other parts of that body.] Contact forces, gravitational, electric, and magnetic forces are real. Fictitious forces are those which arise solely from formulating a problem in a non-inertial system, in which ma = F + (fictitious force terms) Intensive variable. A measurable property of a thermodynamic system is intensive if when two identical systems are combined into one, the variable of the combined system is the same as the original value in each system. Examples: temperature, pressure. See: extensive variable, and specific.

Image. (Optics) A surprising number of physics glossaries omit a definition of this! No wonder. It's difficult to put in a few words, and still be comprehensive in scope. Try this. Image: A point mapping of luminous points of an object located in one region of space to points in another region of space, formed by refraction or reflection of light in a manner which causes light from each point of the object to converge to or diverge from a point somewhere else (on the image). The images which are useful generally have the character that adjacent points of the object map to adjacent points of the image without discontinuity, and is a recognizable (though perhaps somewhat distorted) mapping of the object. See: real image and virtual image. Law. A statement, usually mathematical, which describes some physical phenomena. Compare: hypothesis and theory. Lens. A transparent object with two refracting surfaces. Usually the surfaces are flat or spherical (spherical lenses). Sometimes, to improve image quality. Lenses are deliberately made with surfaces which depart slightly from spherical (aspheric lenses). Kinetic energy. The energy a body has by virtue of its motion. The kinetic energy is the work done by an external force to bring the body from rest to a particular state of motion. See: work. Common misconception: Many students think that kinetic energy is defined by mv2. It is not. That happens to be approximately the kinetic energy of objects moving slowly, at small fractions of the speed of light. If the body is moving at relativistic speeds, its kinetic energy is mc2, which can be expressed as mv2 + an infinite series of terms. 2 = 1/(1-(v/c)2), where c is the speed of light in a vacuum. Macro-. A prefix meaning large. See: microMacroscopic. A physical entity or process of large scale, the scale of ordinary human experience. Specifically, any phenomena in which the individual molecules and atoms are neither measured, nor explicitly considered in the description of the phenomena. See: microscopic. Magnification. Two kinds of magnification are useful to describe optical systems and they must not be confused, since they aren't synonymous. Any optical system which produces a real image from a real object is described by its linear magnification. Any system which one looks through to view a virtual image is

described by its angular magnification. These have different definitions, and are based on fundamentally different concepts. Linear Magnification is the ratio of the size of the object to the size of the image. Angular Magnification is the ratio of the angular size of the object as seen through the instrument to the angular size of the object as seen with the 'naked eye'. The 'naked eye' view is without use of the optical instrument, but under optimal viewing conditions. Certain 'gotchas' lurk here. What are 'optimal' conditions? Usually this means the conditions in which the object's details can be seen most clearly. For a small object held in the hand, this would be when the object is brought as close as possible and still seen clearly, that it, to the near point of the eye, about 25 cm for normal eyesight. For a distant mountain, one can't bring it close, so when determining the magnification of a telescope, we assume the object is very distant, or at infinity. And what is the 'optimal' position of the image? For the simple magnifier, in which the magnification depends strongly on the image position, the image is best seen at the near point of the eye, 25 cm. For the telescope, the image size doesn't change much as you fiddle with the focus, so you likely will put the image at infinite distance for relaxed viewing. The microscope is an intermediate case. Always striving for greater resolution, the user may pull the image close, to the near point, even though that doesn't increase its size very much. But usually, users will place the image farther away, at the distance of a meter or two, or even at infinity. But, because the object is very near the focal point, the magnification is only weakly dependent on image position. Some texts express angular magnification as the ratio of the angles, some express it as the ratio of the tangents of the angles. If all of the angles are small, there's negligible difference between these two definitions. However, if you examine the derivation of the formula these books give for the magnification of a telescope fo/fe, you realize that they must have been using the tangents. The tangent form of the definition is the traditionally correct one, the one used in science and industry, for nearly all optical instruments which are designed to produce images which preserve the linear geometry of the object. Micro-. A prefix meaning small, as in microscope, micrometer, micrograph. Also, a metric prefix meaning 10-6. See: macro-

Microscopic. A physical entity or process of small scale, too small to directly experience with our senses. Specifically, any phenomena on the molecular and atomic scale, or smaller. See: macroscopic. MKSA. The system of physical units based on the fundamental metric units: meter kilogram, second and ampere. Modern physics. The physics developed since about 1900, which includes relativity and quantum mechanics. See: classical physics. Mole. The term mole is short for the name gram-molar-weight; it is not a shortened form of the word molecule. (However, the word molecule does also derive from the word molar.) See: Avogadros constant. Misuse alert: Many books emphasize that the mole is "just a number," a measure of the number of particles in a collection. They say that one can have a mole of any kind of particles, baseballs, atoms, stars, grains of sand, etc. It doesn't have to be molecules. This is misleading. To say that the mole is "just a number" is simply wrong, from physical, pedagogical, philosophical and historical points of view. There's no physical significance to a mole of stars or a mole of grains of sand, or a mole of people. The physical significance of the mole as a measure of quantity arises only when dealing with physical laws about matter on the molecular scale. The only physical and chemical laws which use the mole are those dealing with gases, or systems behaving like gases. Molecular mass. The molecular mass of something is the mass of one mole of it (in cgs units), or one kilomole of it (in MKS units). The units of molecular mass are gram and kilogram, respectively. The cgs and MKS values of molecular mass are numerically equal. The molecular mass is not the mass of one molecule. Some books still call this the molecular weight. One dictionary definition of molar is "Pertaining to a body of matter as a whole: contrasted with molecular and atomic." The mole is a measure appropriate for a macroscopic amount of material, as contrasted with a microscopic amount (a few atoms or molecules). See: mole, Avogadro's constant, microscopic, macroscopic. Newton's first and second laws of motion. F = d(mv)/dt.

F is the net (total) force acting on the body of mass m. The individual forces acting on m must be summed vectorially. In the special case where the mass is constant, this becomes F = ma. Newton's third law of motion. When body A exerts a force on body B, then B exerts and equal and opposite force on A. The two forces related by this law act on different bodies. The forces need not be net forces. Ohm's law. V = IR, where V is the potential across a circuit element, I is the current through it, and R is its resistance. This is not a generally applicable definition of resistance. It is only applicable to ohmic resistors, those whose resistance R is constant over the range of interest and V obeys a strictly linear relation to I. Materials are said to be ohmic when V depends linearly on R. Metals are ohmic so long as one holds their temperature constant. But changing the temperature of a metal changes R slightly. When the current changes rapidly, as when turning on a lamp, or when using AC sources, slightly non-linear and nonohmic behavior can be observed. For non-ohmic resistors, R is current-dependent and the definition R = dV/dI is far more useful. This is sometimes called the dynamic resistance. Solid state devices such as thermistors are non-ohmic and non-linear. A thermistor's resistance decreases as it warms up, so its dynamic resistance is negative. Tunnel diodes and some electrochemical processes have a complicated I-V curve with a negative resistance region of operation. The dependence of resistance on current is partly due to the change in the device's temperature with increasing current, but other subtle processes also contribute to change in resistance in solid state devices. Operational definition. A definition which describes an experimental procedure by which a numeric value of the quantity may be determined. See dimensions. Example: Length is operationally defined by specifying a procedure for subdividing a standard of length into smaller units to make a measuring stick, then laying that stick on the object to be measured, etc.... Very few quantities in physics need to be operationally defined. They are the fundamental quantities, which include length, mass and time. Other quantities are defined from these through mathematical relations.

Optical sign conventions. In introductory (freshman) courses in physics a sign convention is used for objects and images in which the lens equation must be written 1/p + 1/q = 1/f. Often the rules for this sign convention are presented in a convoluted manner. A simple and easy to remember rule is this: p is the object-to-lens distance. q is the lens to image distance. The coordinate axis along the optic axis is in the direction of passage of light through the lens, this defining the positive direction. Example: If the axis and the light direction is left-to-right (as is usually done) and the object is to the left of the lens, the object-to-lens distance is positive. if the object is to the right of the lens (virtual object), the object-to-lens distance is negative. It works the same for images. For refractive surfaces, define the surface radius to be the directed distance from a surface to its center of curvature. Thus a surface convex to the incident light is positive, one concave to the incident light is negative. The surface equation is then n/s + n'/s' = (n'-n)/R where s and s' are the object and image distances, and n and n' the refractive index of the incident and emergent media, respectively. For mirrors, the equation is usually written 1/s + 1/s' = 2/R = 1/f. A diverging mirror is convex to the incoming light, with negative f. From this fact we conclude that R is also negative. This form of the equation is consistent with that of the lens equation, and the interpretation of sign of focal length is the same also. But violence is done to the definition of R we used above, for refraction. One can say that the mirror folds the length axis at the mirror, so that emergent rays to a real image at the left represent a positive value of s'. We are forced also to declare that the mirror also flips the sign of the surface radius. For reflective surfaces, the radius of curvature is defined to be the directed distance from a surface to its center of curvature, measured with respect to the axis used for the emergent light. With this qualification the convention for the signs of s' and R is the same for mirrors as for refractive surfaces. In advanced optics courses, a cartesian sign convention is used in which all things to the left of the lens are negative, all those to the right are positive. When this is used, the lens equation must be written 1/p + 1/f = 1/q. (The sign of the 1/p term is opposite that in the other sign convention). This is a particularly meaningful version, for 1/p is the measure of vergence (convergence or divergence) of the rays as they enter the lens, 1/f is the amount the lens changes the vergence, and 1/q is the vergence of the emergent rays. Pascal's Principle of Hydrostatics. Pascal actually has three separate principles of hydrostatics. When a textbook refers to Pascal's Principle it should specify which is meant.

Pascal 1: The pressure at any point in a liquid exerts force equally in all directions. This means that an infinitesimal surface area placed at that point will experience the same force due to pressure no matter what its orientation. Pascal 2: When pressure is changed (increased or decreased) at any point in a homogenous, incompressible fluid, all other points experience the same change of pressure. Except for minor edits and insertion of the words 'homogenous' and 'incompressible', this is the statement of the principle given in John A. Eldridge's textbook College Physics (McGraw-Hill, 1937). Yet over half of the textbooks I've checked, including recent ones, omit the important word 'changed'. Some textbooks add the qualification 'enclosed fluid'. This gives the false impression that the fluid must be in a closed container, which isn't a necessary condition of Pascal's principle at all. Some of these textbooks do indicate that Pascal's principle applies only to changes in pressure, but do so in the surrounding text, not in the bold, highlighted, and boxed statement of the principle. Students, of course, read the emphasized statement of the principle and not the surrounding text. Few books give any examples of the principle applied to anything other than enclosed liquids. The usual example is the hydraulic press. Too few show that Pascal's principle is derivable in one step from Bernoulli's equation. Therefore students have the false impression that these are independent laws. Pascal 3. The hydraulic lever. The hydraulic jack is a problem in fluid equilibrium, just as a pulley system is a problem in mechanical equilibrium (no accelerations involved). It's the static situation in which a small force on a small piston balances a large force on a large piston. No change of pressure need be involved here. A constant force on one piston slowly lifts a different piston with a constant force on it. At all times during this process the fluid is in nearequilibrium. This "principle" is no more than an application of the definition of pressure as F/A, the quotient of net force to the area over which the force acts. However, it also uses the principle that pressure in a fluid is uniform throughout the fluid at all points of the same height. This hydraulic jack lifting process is done at constant speed. If the two pistons are at different levels, as they usually are in real jacks used for lifting, there's a pressure difference between the two pistons due to height difference (rho)gh. In textbook examples this is generally considered small enough to neglect and may not even be mentioned.

Pascal's own discussion of the principle is not concisely stated and can be misleading if hastily read. See his On the Equilibrium of Liquids, 1663. He introduces the principle with the example of a piston as part of an enclosed vessel and considers what happens if a force is applied to that piston. He concludes that each portion of the vessel is pressed in proportion to its area. He does mention parenthetically that he is "excluding the weight of the water..., for I am speaking only of the piston's effect." Percentage. Older dictionaries suggested that percentage be used when a nonquantitative statement is being made: "The percentage growth of the economy was encouraging." But use percent when specifying a numerical value: "The gross national product increased by 2 percent last year." One other use of "percentage" is proper, however. When comparing a percent measure which changes, it's common to express that change in "percentage points." For example, if the unemployment rate is 5% one month, and 6% the next, we say "Unemployment increased by one percentage point". The absolute change in unemployment was, however, an increase of 20 percent. The average person hearing such figures seldom stops to think what the words mean, and many people think that "percent" and "percentage point" are synonyms. They are not. This is one more reason to avoid using the word "percentage" when expressing percent measures. The term "percentage point" is almost never used in the sciences. (Unless you consider economics a science.) Students in the sciences, unaware of this distinction will say "The experimental percentage uncertainty in our result was 9%." Perhaps they are trying to "sound profound". In view of the above discussion, this isn't what the student meant. The student should have simply said: "The experimental uncertainty in our result was 9%." Related note: Students have the strange idea that results are better when expressed as percents. Some experimental uncertainties must not be expressed as percents. Examples: (1) temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit measure, (2) index of refraction, (3) dielectric constants. These measurables have arbitrarily chosen fixed points. Consider a 1 degree uncertainty in a temperature of 99 degrees C. Is the uncertainty 1%? Consider the same error in a measurement of 5 degrees. Is the uncertainty now 20%? Consider how much smaller the percent would be if the temperature were expressed in degrees Kelvin. This shows that percent uncertainty of Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature measurements is meaningless. However, the absolute (Kelvin) temperature scale has a physically meaningful fixed point (absolute zero), rather than an arbitrarily chosen one,

and in some situations a percent uncertainty of an absolute temperature is meaningful. Per unit. In my opinion this expression is a barbarism best avoided. When a student is told that electric field is force per unit charge and in the MKS system one unit of charge is a coulomb (a huge amount) must we obtain that much charge to measure the field? Certainly not. In fact, one must take the limit of F/q as q goes to zero. Simply say: "Force divided by charge" or "F over q" or even "force per charge". Unfortunately there is no graceful way to say these things, other than simply writing the equation. Per is one of those frustrating words in English. The American Heritage Dictionary definition is: "To, for, or by each; for every." Example: "40 cents per gallon." We must put the blame for per unit squarely on the scientists and engineers. Precise. Sharply or clearly defined. Having small experimental uncertainty. A precise measurement may still be inaccurate, if there were an unrecognized determinate error in the measurement (for example, a miscalibrated instrument). Compare: accurate. Proof. A term from logic and mathematics describing an argument from premise to conclusion using strictly logical principles. In mathematics, theorems or propositions are established by logical arguments from a set of axioms, the process of establishing a theorem being called a proof. The colloquial meaning of proof causes many problems in physics discussions and is best avoided. Since mathematics is such an important part of physics, the mathematicians meaning of proof should be the only one we use. Also, we often ask students in upper level courses to do proofs of certain theorems of mathematical physics, and we are not asking for experimental demonstration! So, in a laboratory report, we should not say "We proved Newton's law." Rather say, "Today we demonstrated (or verified) the validity of Newton's law in the particular case of" Science doesn't prove, but it can disprove. See: Why? Radioactive material. A material whose nuclei spontaneously give off nuclear radiation. Naturally radioactive materials (found in the earth's crust) give off

alpha, beta, or gamma particles. Alpha particles are Helium nuclei, beta particles are electrons, and gamma particles are high energy photons. Radioactive. A word distinguishing radioactive materials from those which aren't. Usage: "U-235 is radioactive; He-4 is not." Note: Radioactive is least misleading when used as an adjective, not as a noun. It is sometimes used in the noun form as an shortened stand-in for radioactive material, as in the example above. Radioactivity. The process of emitting particles from the nucleus. Usage: "Certain materials found in nature demonstrate radioactivity." Misuse alert: Radioactivity is a process, not a thing, and not a substance. It is just as incorrect to say "U-235 emits radioactivity" as it is to say "current flows." A malfunctioning nuclear reactor does not release radioactivity, though it may release radioactive materials into the surrounding environment. A patient being treated by radiation therapy does not absorb radioactivity, but does absorb some of the radiation (alpha, beta, gamma) given off by the radioactive materials being used. This misuse of the word radioactivity causes many people to incorrectly think of radioactivity as something one can get by being near radioactive materials. There is only one process which behaves anything like that, and it is called artificially induced radioactivity, a process mainly carried out in research laboratories. When some materials are bombarded with protons, neutrons, or other nuclear particles of appropriate energy, their nuclei may be transmuted, creating unstable isotopes which are radioactive. Rate. A quantity of one thing compared to a quantity of another. [Dictionary definition] In physics the comparison is generally made by taking a quotient. Thus speed is defined to be the dx/dt, the time rate of change of position. Common misuse: We often hear non-scientists say such things as "The car was going at a high rate of speed." This is redundant at best, since it merely means "The car was moving at high speed." It is the sort of mistake made by people who don't think while they talk. Ratio. The quotient of two similar quantities. In physics, the two quantities must have the same units to be similar. Therefore we may properly speak of the ratio of two lengths. But to say "the ratio of charge to mass of the electron" is improper. The latter is properly called "the specific charge of the electron." See: specific.

Reaction. Reaction forces are those equal and opposite forces of Newton's Third Law. Though they are sometimes called an action and reaction pair, one never sees a single force referred to as an action force. See: Newtons Third Law. Real force. See: inertial frame. Real image. The point(s) to which light rays converge as they emerge from a lens or mirror. See: virtual image. Real object. The point(s) from which light rays diverge as they enter a lens or mirror. See: virtual object. Relation A rule of correspondence between the set of values of one quantity to the values of another quantity, often (but not always) expressible as an equation. See function. Relative. Colloquially "compared to". In the theory of relativity observations of moving observers are quantitatively compared. These observers obtain different values when measuring the same quantities, and these quantities are said to be relative. The theory, however, shows us how the differing measured values are precisely related to the relative velocity of the two observers. Some quantities are found to be the same for all observers, and are called invariant. One postulate of relativity theory is that the speed of light is an invariant quantity. When the theory is expressed in four dimensional form, with the appropriate choice of quantities, new invariant quantities emerge: the world-displacement (x + y + z + ict), the energy-momentum four-vector, and the electric and magnetic potentials may be combined into an invariant four-vector. Thus relativity theory might properly be called invariance theory. Misuse alert: One hears some folks with superficial minds say "Einstein showed that everything is relative." In fact, special relativity shows that only certain measurable things are relative, but in a precisely and mathematically specific way, and other things are, not relative, for all observers agree on them. Relative uncertainty. The uncertainty in a quantity compared to the quantity itself, expressed as a ratio of the absolute uncertainty to the size of the quantity. It may also be expressed as a percent uncertainty. The relative uncertainty is dimensionless and unitless. See: absolute uncertainty. Scale-limited. A measuring instrument is said to be scale-limited if the experimental uncertainty in that instrument is smaller than the smallest division

readable on its scale. Therefore the experimental uncertainty is taken to be half the smallest readable increment on the scale. Specific. In physics and chemistry the word specific in the name of a quantity usually means divided by an extensive measure that is, divided by a quantity representing an amount of material. Specific volume means volume divided by mass, which is the reciprocal of the density. Specific heat capacity is the heat capacity divided by the mass. See: extensive, and capacity. Tele-. A prefix meaning at a distance, as in telescope, telemetry, television. Term. One of several quantities which are added together. Confusion can arise with another use of the word, as when one is asked to Express the result in terms of mass and time. This means that the result is dependent on mass and time, obviously it doesnt mean that mass and time are to be added as terms. Truth. This is a word best avoided entirely in physics except when placed in quotes, or with careful qualification. Its colloquial use has so many shades of meaning from it seems to be correct to the absolute truths claimed by religion, that its use causes nothing but misunderstanding. Someone once said "Science seeks proximate (approximate) truths." Others speak of provisional or tentative truths. Certainly science claims no final or absolute truths. Theoretical. Describing an idea which is part of a theory, or a consequence derived from theory. Misuse alert: Do not call an authoritative or book value of a physical quantity a theoretical value, as in: "We compared our experimentally determined value of index of refraction with the theoretical value and found they differed by 0.07." The value obtained from index of refraction tables comes not from theory, but from experiment, and therefore should not be called theoretical. The word theoretically suffers the same abuse. Only when a numeric value is a prediction from theory, can one properly refer to it as a "theoretical value". Theory. A well-tested mathematical model of some part of science. In physics a theory usually takes the form of an equation or a group of equations, along with explanatory rules for their application. Theories are said to be successful if (1) they synthesize and unify a significant range of phenomena; (2) they have predictive power, either predicting new phenomena, or suggesting a direction for further research and testing. Compare: hypothesis, and law.

Uncertainty. Synonym: error. A measure of the inherent variability of repeated measurements of a quantity. A prediction of the probable variability of a result, based on the inherent uncertainties in the data, found from a mathematical calculation of how the data uncertainties would, in combination, lead to uncertainty in the result. This calculation or process by which one predicts the size of the uncertainty in results from the uncertainties in data and procedure is called error analysis. See: absolute uncertainty and relative uncertainty. Uncertainties are always present; the experimenters job is to keep them as small as required for a useful result. We recognize two kinds of uncertainties: indeterminate and determinate. Indeterminate uncertainties are those whose size and sign are unknown, and are sometimes (misleadingly) called random. Determinate uncertainties are those of definite sign, often referring to uncertainties due to instrument miscalibration, bias in reading scales, or some unknown influence on the measurement. Units. Labels which distinguish one type of measurable quantity from other types. Length, mass and time are distinctly different physical quantities, and therefore have different unit names, meters, kilograms and seconds. We use several systems of units, including the metric (SI) units, the English (or U.S. customary units) , and a number of others of mainly historical interest. Note: Some dimensionless quantities are assigned unit names, some are not. Specific gravity has no unit name, but density does. Angles are dimensionless, but have unit names: degree, radian, grad. Some quantities which are physically different, and have different unit names, may have the same dimensions, for example, torque and work. Compare: dimensions. Variable. A symbol representative of a set of numbers, points, values, etc. In science, variables represent values of measurements of quantities. Much confusion exists about the meanings of dependent and independent variables. In one sense this distinction hinges on how you write the relation between variables. (1) If you write a function or relation in the form y = f(x), y is considered dependent on x and x is said to be the independent variable. (2) If one variable (say x) in a relation is experimentally set, fixed, or held to particular values while measuring corresponding values of y, we call x the independent variable. We could just as well (in some cases) set values of y and

then determine corresponding values of x. In that case y would be the independent variable. (3) If the experimental uncertainties of one variable are smaller than the other, the one with the smallest uncertainty is often called the independent variable. (4) As a general rule independent variables are plotted on the horizontal axis of a graph, but this is not required if there's a good reason to do it otherwise. In many cases these four different practical definitions do not conflict with each other and one may choose language, form of equation, and method of plotting graphs so that all definitions are This x is a very independent variable. satisfied. But not always. Let common sense and the need for clear communication decide how to deal with situations where there seems to be conflict.

y f(x)

Some common statistical packages for computers can only deal with situations where one variable is assumed error-free, and all the experimental error is in the other one. They cavalierly refer to the error-free variable as the independent variable. But in real science, there's always some experimental error in all values, including those we "set" in advance to particular values. Virtual image. The point(s) from which light rays converge as they emerge from a lens or mirror. The rays do not actually pass through each image point. [One and only one ray, the one which passes through the center of the lens, does pass through the image point.] See: real image. Virtual object. The point(s) to which light rays converge as they enter a lens. The rays do not actually pass through each object point. [One and only one ray, the one which passes through the center of the lens, does pass through the object point.] See: real object. Weight. The size of the external force required to keep a body at rest in its frame of reference. Elementary textbooks almost universally define weight to be "the size of the gravitational force on a body." This would be fine if they would only consistently stick to that definition. But, no, they later speak of weightless astronauts, loss of weight of a body immersed in a liquid, etc. The student who is really thinking about this is confused. Some books then tie themselves in verbal knots trying to explain (and defend) why they use the word

inconsistently. Our definition has the virtue of being consistent with all of these uses of the word. In the special case of a body supported near the earth's surface, where the acceleration due to gravity is g, the weight happens to have size mg. So this definition gives the same size for the weight as the more common definition. This definition is consistent with the statement: "The astronauts in the orbiting spacecraft were in a weightless condition." This is because they and their spacecraft have the same acceleration, and in their frame of reference (the spacecraft) no force is needed to keep them at the same position relative to their spacecraft. They and their spacecraft are both falling at the same rate. The gravitational force on the astronauts is still mg (though g is about 12% smaller at an altitude of 400 km than it is at the surface of the earth. It is not zero). This definition is consistent with statements about the "loss of weight" of a body immersed in a liquid (due to the buoyant force). The "weight" meant here is the external force (not counting the buoyant force) required to support the body in equilibrium in the liquid. Why? Students often ask questions with the word why in them. "Why is the sky blue?" "Why do objects fall to earth?" "Why are there no bodies with negative mass?" "Why is the universe lawful?" What sort of answers does one desire to such a question? What sort of answers can science give? If you want some mystical, ultimate or absolute answer, you won't get it from science. Philosophers of science point out that science doesn't answer why questions, it only answers how questions. Science doesn't explain; science describes. Science postulates models to describe how some part of nature behaves, then tests and refines that model till it works as well as we can measure (as evidenced by repeated, skeptical testing). Science doesnt provide ultimate or absolute answers, but only proximate (good enough) answers. Science can't find absolute truth, but it can expose errors and identify things which aren't so, thereby narrowing the region in which truth may reside. In the process, science has produced more reliable knowledge than any other branch of human thought. Work. The amount of energy transferred to or from a body or system as a result of forces acting upon the body, causing displacement of the body or parts of it. More specifically the work done by a particular force is the product of the displacement of the body and the component of the force in the direction of the displacement. A force acting perpendicular to the body's displacement does no work on the body. A force acting upon a body which undergoes no

displacement does no work on that body. Also, it follows that if there's no motion of a body or any part of the body, nothing did work on the body. See: kinetic energy. Zeroth law of thermodynamics. If body A is in thermal equilibrium with body B, and B is also in thermal equilibrium with C, then A is necessarily in thermal equilibrium with C. This is equivalent to saying that thermal equilibrium obeys a transitive mathematical relation. Since we define equality of temperature as the condition of thermal equilibrium, then this law is necessary for the complete definition of temperature. It ensures that if a thermometer (body B) indicates that body A and C give the same thermometer reading, then they bodies A and C are at the same temperature.

Frank Tapson2002

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