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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.

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.

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.

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.

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
m2 s-2.

SI derived units are units of


measurement defined in the
International System of Units
(SI).

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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 s2
/m2
= 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 m2 s-2
Joule

power
kg m2 s-3
Watt

pressure
kg m-1 s-2
Pascal 12

Magnitude/size
Magnitudes of physical quantities range
from very very large to very very small.
E.g. mass of sun is 1030 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 1026
Earth to Sun
1.5 x 1011
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 10n form
where 1 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 108
0.00034
would be written as 3.416
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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 mm2
= ? m2
b) 865 km h-1 = ? m s-1
c) 300 g cm-3 = ? kg m-3
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a) 30 mm2 = ? m2

1 mm

10 m

1 mm 10
2

30 mm 30 10

m or 3.0 10

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


865 km h

240 m s

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c) 300 g cm-3 = ? kg m-3

300 g cm

3.0 10 kg m

-3

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