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.

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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 ...
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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 ...
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5answers
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What do units like joule * seconds imply?

I can easily understand what divisive units imply, but not what multiplicative units imply. What I mean is, when I read "$12 \:\mathrm{eggs/carton}$", I mentally convert it to, "There are 12 eggs ...
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Why are expressions such as $\operatorname{ln}T$ used in thermodynamics where $T$ is not dimensionless?

In all thermodynamics texts that I have seen, expressions such as $\operatorname{ln}T$ and $\operatorname{ln}S$ are used, where $T$ is temperature and $S$ is entropy, and also with other thermodynamic ...
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1answer
495 views

Mass of empty AdS$_5$

Five dimensional empty AdS$_5$ space has mass $$ E = \frac{3 \pi \ell^2}{32 G}. $$ Is the above equation correct? Let's do some dimensional analysis to confirm. In natural units, in 5 dimensions ...
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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 ...
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Why isn't temperature measured in units of energy?

Temperature is the average of the kinetic energies of all molecules of a body. Then, why do we consider it a different fundamental physical quantity altogether [K], and not an alternate form of ...
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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 ...
13
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1answer
698 views

Fundamental question about the Buckingham $\pi$ theorem (dimensional analysis)

I have a rather fundamental question about the Buckingham $\pi$ theorem. They introduce it in my book about fluid mechanics as follows (I state the description of the theorem here, because I noticed ...
12
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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 ...
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3answers
802 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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Dimensional analysis restricted to rational exponents?

After some reading on dimensional analysis, it seems to me that only rational exponents are considered. To be more precise, it seems that dimensional values form a vector space over the rationals. My ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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6answers
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Why is it natural to look for solutions involving dimensionless quantities?

While studying the Heat Equation, I got stuck in a statement in my book. It says: We have seen that the combination of variables $\displaystyle \frac{x}{\sqrt{Dt}}$ is not only invariant with ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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\ ...
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5answers
771 views

Can you find the length of a pencil without a ruler or clock?

Edit: Assume you do have access to all sorts of instruments, but they are all shrunk in proportion. My real question is: If you are shrunken (or expanded) by a constant factor and put in a room ...
8
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4answers
317 views

Physical representation of volume to surface area

I was looking at this XKCD what-if question (the gas mileage part), and started to wonder about the concept of unit cancellation. If we have a shape and try to figure out the ratio between the volume ...
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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 ...
7
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3answers
260 views

What are the physical dimensions (units) of the elements in a Hilbert space of a QM system?

In QM, the state vector $|\psi\rangle$ seem to have various dimensions under different representations: (only in space of continuous dimension) $$\langle x|\psi\rangle = [\frac{1}{\sqrt{Length}}]$$ ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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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 ...
6
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1answer
678 views

Why can you remove the gravitational constant from a computer game simulation?

I've seen in a few gravity simulation games (ie. bouncing balls) the equation: force = G * m1 * m2 / distance^2 shortened to this by removing the gravitational ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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What are the units or dimensions of the Dirac delta function?

In three dimensions, the Dirac delta function $\delta^3 (\textbf{r}) = \delta(x) \delta(y) \delta(z)$ is defined by the volume integral: $$\int_{\text{all space}} \delta^3 (\textbf{r}) \, dV = ...
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3answers
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Tips on teaching Dimensional Analysis?

What's a good way to explain dimensional analysis to a student? Here's a simple question which this method would be useful: Let's say a truck is moving with a speed of 18 m/s to a new speed of 13 ...
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3answers
107 views

Units of a discrete Fourier transform

Normally a Fourier transform (FT) of a function of one variable is defined as $$f_k=\int^\infty_{-\infty}f(x)\exp\left(-2\pi i k x\right) dx.$$ This means that $f_k$ gets the units of $f$ times the ...
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0answers
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Why dimensionality of the Electric Charge varies with the spacetime dimensions?

The point is: We can find via dimensional analysis that the electric charge dimensionality varies with the dimension of space-time. $$[\text{charge}] = eV^{(3-D)/2}$$(You can see below the way I did ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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1answer
279 views

What are units actually?

This question is about the concept of units in physics. Firstly - do units have a formal mathematical definition? How are they different from pure numbers? Are pure numbers defined to be ratios of ...
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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? ...
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Is the “dimension” in dimensional analysis the same as the “dimension” in “three spatial dimensions”?

When we talk about the dimension of a quantity (e.g. the dimension of acceleration is$[ L \ T ^ {-2}]$) are we talking about the same "dimension" as when we talk about three dimensional space? Are ...
5
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1answer
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Data requirement to determine proportionality

A common result of theoretical analysis in physics is some sort of relation derived from physical parameters and typically expressed in the form of a non-dimensional parameter. These scale relations ...
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5answers
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Does the unit of a quantity change if you take square root of it?

For example, I have a mass, m = 0.1kg and I square root it, giving me m = 0.316 (3s.f.) does the unit still stay as kg, or does it change?
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 $G$ ...
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$\hbar$, 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?
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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 ...
4
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2answers
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Where might hertz per dioptre actually be useful?

I once came across the strange, artificial unit "hertz per dioptre", which is dimensionally equivalent to "metres per second". Could this unit, by some stretch of the imagination, be used in some ...
4
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2answers
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Integrating equations with units

I was looking through an old copy of Barron's AP Physics and found this problem relating to impulse which I was initially confused about how to integrate. Example 6.1 During a collision with a ...
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1answer
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Problems with dimensions when solving an ODE

I'd like to solve the following differential equation: $$\frac{dQ}{dt}=\frac{k_BT}{m}-\frac{\alpha Q}{m}$$ where $Q$ has units of $\text{m}^2\text{s}^{-1}$, $k_B$ is Boltzmann's constant, $T$ is ...
4
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why are the anthropometric units (which are about as big as we are) as large as they are relative to their corresponding Planck units? [duplicate]

so this might have some duplicated inquiry that this question or this question had, and while i think i have some of my own opinion about it, i would like to ask the community here for more opinions. ...
4
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3answers
157 views

Problems with units of entropy in statistical thermodynamics

The statistical thermodynamics definition of entropy: $S = kN \ln (W)$ troubles me a lot with the problem of dimenstions. where $S$ is entropy; $k$, the Boltzmann constant; $N$ the number of particles ...
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In terms of scale, where does the concept of Reynold's number cease to have meaning?

The Reynolds number is classically described in terms of pipe geometries but its use has also been usefully extended to other more complex surface geometries to predict transitional flow behavior. But ...
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1answer
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Dimension agreement in canonical transformation

In this Physics.SE post, there is a transformation: $$Q = q,$$ $$P = \sqrt{p} - \sqrt{q}.$$ for Hamiltonian $H = \frac{p^2}{2}$. The post discusses the validity of this transformation as a canonical ...
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Why does Coulomb's constant have units?

I think of Coulomb's constant as a conversion factor (not sure if this is correct). Kind of like how you would do calculations in kg and then times it by the conversion constant to convert your answer ...
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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 ...
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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 ...