Dimensional analysis means to obtain results by analyzing the units in question, etc. DO NOT USE THIS TAG if your question is about degrees of freedom or spatial dimensions.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

11
votes
5answers
3k views

How to get Planck length

I know that what Planck length equals to. The first question is, how do you get the formula $$\ell_P~=~\sqrt\frac{\hbar G}{c^3}$$ that describes the Planck length? The second question is, will any ...
12
votes
5answers
876 views

units and nature

I am wondering whether the five$^1$ units of the natural unit system really is dictated by nature, or invented to satisfy the limited mind of man? Is the number of linearly independent units a ...
21
votes
11answers
7k views

What is the logarithm of a kilometer? Is it a dimensionless number?

In log-plots a quantity is plotted on a logarithmic scale. This got me thinking about what the logarithm of a unit actually is. Suppose I have something with length $L = 1 km$. $\lg L = \lg km$ It ...
4
votes
4answers
1k views

Can Planck's constant be derived from Maxwell's equations?

Can mathematics (including statistics, dynamical systems,...) combined with classical electromagnetism (using only the constants appearing in chargefree Maxwell equations) be used to derive the Planck ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Square bracket notation for dimensions and units: usage and conventions

One of the most useful tools in dimensional analysis is the use of square brackets around some physical quantity $q$ to denote its dimension as $$[q].$$ However, the precise meaning of this symbol ...
3
votes
3answers
906 views

What is the meaning of speed of light $c$ in $E=mc^2$?

$E=mc^2$ is the famous mass-energy equation of Albert Einstein. I know that it tells that mass can be converted to energy and vice versa. I know that $E$ is energy, $m$ is mass of a matter and $c$ is ...
6
votes
2answers
3k views

What does the Reynolds Number of a flow represent physically?

What does the Reynolds Number of a flow represent physically? I am having trouble understanding the meaning and the utility of the Reynolds number for a certain flow, could someone please tell me how ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Why are smaller animals stronger than larger ones, when considered relative to their body weight?

I am interested in why many small animals such as ants can lift many times their own weight, yet we don't see any large animals capable of such a feat. It has been suggested to me that this is due to ...
6
votes
7answers
2k views

Why are radians more natural than any other angle unit?

I'm convinced that radians are, at the very least, the most convenient unit for angles in mathematics and physics. In addition to this I suspect that they are the most fundamentally natural unit for ...
44
votes
7answers
5k views

What justifies dimensional analysis?

Dimensional analysis, and the notion that quantities with different units cannot be equal, is often used to justify very specific arguments, for example, you might use it to argue that a particular ...
7
votes
1answer
156 views

Why is it meaningless to speak about changes in a dimensional constant?

Every so often,* we get a question about what would happen should there be a change in a physical constant that contains dimensional information, such as $\hbar$, $c$, $G$, or often "the scale of the ...
11
votes
4answers
357 views

Why isn't it $E \approx 27.642 \times mc^2$?

Sorry for the strange question, but why is it that many of the most important physical equations don't have ugly numbers (i.e., "arbitrary" irrational factors) to line up both sides? Why can so many ...
1
vote
3answers
1k views

Frequency of small oscillation of particle under gravity constrained to move in curve $y=ax^4$

How to find the frequency of small oscillation of a particle under gravity that moves along curve $y = a x^4$ where $y$ is vertical height and $(a>0)$ is constant? I tried comparing $V(x) = \frac ...
7
votes
5answers
362 views

Is the number 1 a unit?

In dimensionless analysis, coefficients of quantities which have the same unit for numerator and denominator are said to be dimensionless. I feel the word dimensionless is actually wrong and should be ...
5
votes
1answer
338 views

Deriving or justifying fundamental constants

Is there a fundamental way to look at the universal constants ? can their orders of magnitude be explained from a general points of view like stability, causality, information theory, uncertainty? ...
4
votes
3answers
880 views

$\hbar$, the angular momentum and the action

Is there anything interesting to say about the fact that $\hbar$, the angular momentum and the action have the same units or is it a pure coincidence?
11
votes
3answers
818 views

How can I understand counterintuitive units like $\text{s}^2$?

One of the things I never understood, but was too afraid to ask is this: how should I think of things like $\frac{\text{kg}}{\text{s}^2}$. What exactly is a square second? Square foot makes sense to ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

How can the speed of light be a dimensionless constant?

This is a quote from the book A first course in general relativity by Schutz: What we shall now do is adopt a new unit for time, the meter. One meter of time is the time it takes light to travel ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

How does the period of an hourglass depend on the grain size?

Suppose I have an hourglass that takes 1 full hour on average to drain. The grains of sand are, say, $1 \pm 0.1\ {\rm mm}$ in diameter. If I replace this with very finely-grained sand $0.1 \pm 0.01\ ...
5
votes
1answer
243 views

Why should it be allowed to set the einbein to unity?

The Polyakov action for a massive free point particle with worldline $\gamma$ is given by $$ S[\gamma] = \frac{1}{2}\int_\gamma e \biggl(\frac{1}{e^2}\dot{x}^2 - m^2\biggr)\mathrm{d}\tau $$ where ...
3
votes
1answer
305 views

How is the apparent significance of (length) scales in physics explained?

From what I understand, especially from reading arguments on Physics.SE, different (length) scales of a system are extremely important. It's clear that if there are two scales $\delta,d,D,\Delta$ with ...
2
votes
2answers
175 views

Confusion With How Dimensions Work

Form what I understand if you have an equation such as: $$v = v_0 + at$$ then the dimensions must match on both sides i.e. $L/T = L/T$ (which is true in this case), but I have seen equations such as ...
2
votes
1answer
272 views

Functional derivative and units

The both sides of below equation don't give the same units, e.g. $$ \frac{\delta}{\delta \phi (\tau)}\int_a^b \phi (\tau') d\tau'=1\;. $$ where $a<\tau<b$. To show this assume that the field ...
13
votes
8answers
1k views

In dimensional analysis, why the dimensionless constant is usually of order 1?

Usually in all discussions and arguments of scaling or solving problems using dimensional analysis, the dimensionless constant is indeterminate but it is usually assumed that it is of order 1. What ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

What are the units of the quantities in the Einstein field equation?

The Einstein field equations (EFE) may be written in the form: $$R_{\mu\nu}-\frac {1}{2}g_{\mu\nu}R+g_{\mu\nu}\Lambda=\frac {8\pi G}{c^4}T_{\mu\nu}$$ where the units of the gravitational constant $G$ ...
4
votes
4answers
323 views

How do I go from exponents to a formula?

This is a continuation of this question. http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-01-physics-i-classical-mechanics-fall-1999/video-lectures/lecture-1/ skip this lecture to around 25:50. After doing ...
3
votes
2answers
244 views

Exponential or logarithm of a dimensionful quantity?

I have a unit measure, say, seconds, $s$. Furthermore let's say I have a dimensionful quantity $r$ that is measure in seconds, $s$. What is the unit measure of $e^r$? ($1/r$ is in $Hz$.) My question ...
3
votes
1answer
405 views

Dimensional Analysis with $\alpha$, $\beta$, and $\gamma$ Powers

In Prof. Walter Lewin's Dimensional Analysis lecture, he stated that: $$t ~\propto~ h^α m^β g^γ$$ ($\alpha$, $\beta$ and $\gamma$ all to some power of their unit). Why does he put $h$, $m$ and $g$ ...
2
votes
1answer
150 views

How to interpret the appearance of time units in the units of a physical quantity?

Or phrased more abstractly, how to interpret the appearance of time dimension $[time]$ in the dimension of a physical quantity? For example, the dimension of pressure is $[mass] [length]^{-1} ...
0
votes
1answer
97 views

In general, could any ad-hoc relationship of constants be useful?

In general; if one creates an ad-hoc relationship of constants, can we use it to solve equations OR is it just an abstract/artificial math construct? I'm a grad student and as we all know, these ...
0
votes
1answer
74 views

The position of a particle at any time $t$ is given by $S = V0/a [1-e^{-at}]$. What are the dimensions of $a$ and $V_0$?

To find the dimensions of and V0, I must know the dimension of S and e. So I want to know it.
0
votes
0answers
33 views

Justifying order of magnitude reasoning

So in the context of a set of notes I am reading about acoustics I get to equation (23) in this paper. Basically it comes down to showing that (note the dots above the a's meaning time derivative!) ...