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CHAPTER 1

PHYSICAL QUANTITIES AND UNITS


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Physical Quantities & SI Units
Physics is the study of how the universe/world behaves and
how the laws of nature operate
Physics is a mathematical science. The underlying concepts and
principles have a mathematical basis.

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Physical Quantities
Physics involves the study of physical quantities and its measurement
Accurate measurement is very important in science particularly physics,
known as the scientific method
Scientific method: observe, measure, collect data & analyse to discover a
pattern to make it a theory, and then law otherwise repeat or reject
A physical quantity is a quantity that can be measured e.g. length, mass or
time of fall
Physical quantities have a numerical value and unit but not always
Some quantities have no units e.g. pi, ratios, radian, strain
A physical quantity can be divided into base quantities and derived
quantities

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Base Quantities
Base quantities are the quantities that are conventionally accepted as
functionally independent of one another.
It is a quantity that cannot be defined in terms of other physical quantities
nor is it derived from other units, i.e. it is independent of other units.
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Common language of measurement units
Same as spoken languages, different systems of measurement evolved
throughout the world
Examples: foot, furlongs, cubit, gantang, pounds, carats, grains, kati etc
Foot is the length of King Henry VIIs foot
Although units of measurement can be converted between systems it is
cumbersome and far better to have just one system
Hence the System International (SI) system was born in 1960
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7 base quantities
The Systme International (SI) is based on 7 fundamental or base quantities
and its units are given below:
Quantity Name of unit Unit symbol
Length metre m
Mass kilogram kg
Time second s
Electric current Ampere A
Temperature Kelvin K
Amount of substance mole mol
Luminous intensity candela cd
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Beware !
A distance of thirty metres should be written as 30 m and not 30 ms or 30
m s
The letter s is never included in a unit for the plural
If a space is left between 2 letters, the letters denote different units
So, 30 m s would mean thirty metre seconds and 30 ms would mean 30
milliseconds
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Derived quantities and derived units
A derived quantity is a physics quantity that consists of some combination of base
units
It is a quantity which is derived from the base quantities and is a combination of base
units through multiplying and/or dividing them, but never added or subtracted
All derived units are expressible as products or quotients of the base units
e.g N kg m s
-2
and J kg m
2
s
-2
.
SI derived units are units of measurement defined in the International System of
Units (SI).
They are derived from the seven base units and can be expressed in base-unit
equivalents
Most derived units have a special name
The names of all SI units are written in lowercase. The unit symbols of units named
after persons are always spelled with an initial capital letter (e.g., hertz, Hz; but
meter, m).
The exception is degrees Celsius, which refers to degrees on the Celsius temperature
scale.



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Derived quantity & equations
A derived quantity has a defining equation which defines the quantity in
terms of other quantities.
It enables us to express a derived unit in terms of base-unit equivalent.
Example: F = ma ; Newton = kg m s
-2


P = F/A ; Pascal = kg m s
-2
/m
2
= kg m
-1
s
-2

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Some derived units
Derived quantity Base equivalent units _______ Symbol
area square meter m
volume cubic meter m
speed, velocity meter per second m/s or m s
-1
acceleration meter per second squared m/s/s or m s
-2
density kilogram per cubic meter kg m
-3
amount concentration mole per cubic meter mol m
-3
force kg m s
-2
Newton
work/energy kg m
2
s
-2
Joule
power kg m
2
s
-3
Watt
pressure kg m
-1
s
-2
Pascal
frequency s
-1
Hertz
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Magnitude/size
Magnitudes of physical quantities range from very very large to very very small.
E.g. mass of sun is 10
30
kg and mass of electron is 10
-31
kg.
Hence, prefixes are used to describe these magnitudes.

Common prefixes



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Order of magnitude in metres
Earth to universe 1.4 x 10
26

Earth to Sun 1.5 x 10
11
Length of car 4
Diameter of hair 5 x 10
-4
Diameter of an atom 3 x 10
-10
Diameter of a nucleus 6 x 10
-15
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Scientific notation
Large and small values are usually expressed in scientific notation i.e. as a
simple number multiplied by a power of ten
A value expressed in the A x 10
n
form where 1 s A < 10 is called the
standard form scientific notation.
There is far less chance of making a mistake with the number of zeroes
E.g 154 000 000 would be written as 1.54 x 10
8
0.00034 would be written as 3.4 x 10
-4

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Conversions
Since there are so many base units and derived units, and orders of
magnitudes, conversions from one unit to another is inevitable
Let us try some conversions;

a) 30 mm
2
= ? m
2

b) 865 km h
-1
= ? m s
-1
c) 300 g cm
-3
= ? kg m
-3


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a) 30 mm
2
= ? m
2

( ) ( )
2
3
2
m 10 mm 1

=
2 6 2
m 10 mm 1

=
2 5 2 6 2
m 10 3.0 or m 10 30 mm 30

=
17

b) 865 km h
-1
= ? m s
-1

1 1
s m 240 h km 865

=
18

c) 300 g cm
-3
= ? kg m
-3
-3 5 3
m kg 10 3.0 cm g 300 =

1.2 Dimensions of Pyhsical Quantities


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Dimension Of Physical Quantities
The dimensions of a physical quantity shows the relation between that
quantity to the base quantities
e.g the dimensions of area are Length x Length hence area is the
product of Length.
The dimensions of a physical quantity are a combination of the physical
quantities, raised to the appropriate powers, which are used to define the
physical quantity.
Dimensions are not units.
e.g. dimension of length is L, mass is M, time is T etc
Dimensional analysis is used
to determine the unit of the physical quantity.
to determine whether a physical equation is correct or not
dimensionally by using the principle of homogeneity.
but not if a formula is valid or not




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Dimension Symbol
Mass M
Length L
Time T
Electric current I
Temperature
Amount of substance N
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Equations
For any equation to make sense, each term involved in the equation must have the
same base units
Look at this equation: 3 kg + 6 kg = 9 m
The numbers are correct but the units make it nonsense
A term in an equation is a group of numbers and symbols, and each of the terms is
added to, or subtracted from other terms
In any equation where each term has the same base units, the equation is said to be
homogeneous or balanced
An equation is homogeneous if quantities on BOTH sides of the equation have the
same unit.
e.g. s = ut + at
2

LHS : unit of s = m
RHS : unit of ut = m s
-1
x s = m
unit of at
2
= m s
-2
x s
2
= m
Unit on LHS = unit on RHS, hence equation is homogeneous
A homogeneous equation may not be physically correct but a physically correct
equation is definitely homogeneous
e.g. a) s = 2ut + at
2
is homogeneous but not physically correct
(correct equation is s = ut + at),
b) F = ma is homogeneous and physically correct (try it!)


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a) To confirm if equation is homogeneous

E.g: The period of oscillation of a simple pendulum is dependent on the
length l and acceleration of free fall, g.
Is the equation;
T = 2t (l/g) or T = 2t (g/l) ?

Take the first equation T = 2t (l/g)
LHS : unit of T = s
RHS : unit of 2t (l/g) = [ m/(m s
-2
) ]

= s
Equation is homogeneous since unit on LHS = RHS

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b) To find units of constant

E.g: Newtons Universal Law of gravitation, says that the gravitational
force between two objects is given by the formula
F = GMm/r
2
where F - force,
G - Universal Gravitational constant,
M, m - masses of objects,
r - distance apart.
Find the units of G.

Solution
To find units of G : Rearrange the equation.
G = Fr
2
/Mm
therefore unit of G = N m
2
kg
-2
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Determining the dimension and unit
Determine the dimension and the S.I. unit for the following quantities:

a. Velocity
b. Acceleration
c. Momentum
d. Pressure
e. Force
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Example solution for velocity




..... dimension

Hence the S.I. unit of velocity is m s
-1
.
| |
| |
| | interval time
nt displaceme in change
Velocity =
| |
| |
| | t
s
v
A
A
= | |
1
LT
T
L

= = v
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Exercises
1. The moment of inersia, I, of a uniform rod of mass m and length l about an
axis perpendicular to one end of the rod is given by I=1/3 ml. Find
(a) the units of I and
(b) the dimensions of I
2. Under uniform acceleration, motion of an object with velocity, v, is
represented by v = a + bx where a and b are constants and x is a variable
for displacement. If both a and b have dimensions, find the dimensions of
(a) a
(b) bx
(c) b
3. In a simple pendulum experiment, a student makes an assumption that the
period of oscillation of the pendulum, T, is related to the mass, m, of the
pendulum bob, the length, l, of the string and also the acceleration due to
gravity, g. Derive an equation for T by dimensional analysis.

1.3 Scalars and Vectors
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A scalar quantity is a quantity that has magnitude only and has
no direction in space
Scalars
Examples of Scalar Quantities:
Length
Area
Volume
Time
Mass
A vector quantity is a quantity that has both magnitude and a
direction in space
Vectors
Examples of Vector Quantities:
Displacement
Velocity
Acceleration
Force
Vector diagrams are shown
using an arrow
The length of the arrow
represents its magnitude
The direction of the arrow
shows its direction
Vector Diagrams
VECTOR APPLICATION
ADDITION: When two (2) vectors point in the SAME direction,
simply add them together.
EXAMPLE: A man walks 46.5 m east, then another 20 m east.
Calculate his displacement relative to where he started.
66.5 m, E
MAGNITUDE relates to the
size of the arrow and
DIRECTION relates to the
way the arrow is drawn
46.5 m, E
+
20 m, E
VECTOR APPLICATION
SUBTRACTION: When two (2) vectors point in the OPPOSITE
direction, simply subtract them.
EXAMPLE: A man walks 46.5 m east, then another 20 m west.
Calculate his displacement relative to where he started.
26.5 m, E
46.5 m, E
-
20 m, W
Vectors in opposite directions:

6 m s
-1
10 m s
-1
= 4 m s
-1


6 N 10 N = 4 N
Resultant of Two Vectors
Vectors in the same direction:

6 N 4 N = 10 N


6 m
= 10 m
4 m
The resultant is the sum or the combined effect of
two vector quantities
The Parallelogram Law
When two vectors are joined
tail to tail
Complete the parallelogram
The resultant is found by
drawing the diagonal
When two vectors are joined
head to tail
Draw the resultant vector by
completing the triangle
When resolving a vector into components we
are doing the opposite to finding the resultant
We usually resolve a vector into components
that are perpendicular to each other
Resolving a Vector Into Perpendicular
Components
y

x
Here a vector v is resolved into
an x component and a y
component
If a vector of magnitude v and makes an angle with the
horizontal then the magnitude of the components are:
x = v Cos
y = v Sin
Calculating the Magnitude of the Perpendicular
Components
y=v Sin
x=v Cos

y
Proof:
v
x
Cos = u
u vCos x =
v
y
Sin = u
u vSin y =
x
NON-COLLINEAR VECTORS
When two (2) vectors are PERPENDICULAR to each other,
you must use the PYTHAGOREAN THEOREM
Example: A man travels 120 km east
then 160 km north. Calculate his
resultant displacement.
120 km, E
160 km, N
the hypotenuse is
called the RESULTANT
HORIZONTAL COMPONENT
VERTICAL
COMPONENT
S
T
A
R
T

FINISH

c
2
= a
2
+ b
2
c = a
2
+ b
2
c = resul tant = 120
( )
2
+ 160
( )
2
| |
c = 200km
WHAT ABOUT DIRECTION?
In the example, DISPLACEMENT asked for and since it is a
VECTOR quantity, we need to report its direction.
N
S
E
W
N of E
E of N
S of W
W of S
N of W
W of N
S of E
E of S
NOTE: When drawing a right
triangle that conveys some type
of motion, you MUST draw your
components HEAD TO TOE.
N of E
NEED A VALUE ANGLE!
Just putting N of E is not good enough (how far north of
east ?). We need to find a numeric value for the direction.
N of E
160 km, N
120 km, E
To find the value of
the angle we use a
Trig function called
TANGENT.

Tanu =
opposite side
adjacent side
=
160
120
=1.333
u = Tan
1
(1.333) = 53.1
o
u
200 km
So the COMPLETE final answer is :
200 km, 53.1 degrees North of East
What are your missing
components?
Suppose a person walked 65 m, 25 degrees East of North. What were
his horizontal and vertical components?
65 m
25
H.C. = ?
V.C = ?
The goal: ALWAYS MAKE A
RIGHT TRIANGLE!
To solve for components, we
often use the trig functions
sine and cosine.
E m C H opp
N m C V adj
hyp opp hyp adj
hypotenuse
side opposite
hypotenuse
side adjacent
, 47 . 27 25 sin 65 . .
, 91 . 58 25 cos 65 . .
sin cos
sine cosine
= = =
= = =
= =
= =
u u
u u
Example
A boat moves with a velocity of 15 m/s, N in a river which flows
with a velocity of 8.0 m/s, west. Calculate the boat's resultant
velocity with respect to due north.

15 m/s, N
8.0 m/s, W
R
v
u

1 . 28 ) 5333 . 0 (
5333 . 0
15
8
/ 17 15 8
1
2 2
= =
= =
= + =

Tan
Tan
s m R
v
u
u
The Final Answer :
17 m/s, @ 28.1 degrees West of North
Scalar product of two coplanar vectors
Scalar product or dot
product of two coplanar
vector a and b is written as
A.B (read as A dot B)
The product is a scalar given
by


where is the angle
between the two vectors.

A.B=B.A






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B
A
The work done by a force F
when the displacement of its
point of application s is
given by the scalar product
of F and s.


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Cross Product of Two Coplanar Vectors





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Resolving Vector

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Example

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