Questions tagged [dimensional-analysis]

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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87
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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 $L = 1 \:\mathrm{km}$. $\log L = \...
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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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Is it possible to speak about changes in a physical constant which is not dimensionless?

Every so often, one sees on this site* or in the news† or in journal articles‡ a statement of the form "we have measured a change in such-and-such fundamental constant" (or, perhaps more commonly, "we ...
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Is $0\,\mathrm{m}$ dimensionless?

Is $0 \, \mathrm m = 0 \, \mathrm s = 0 \,\mathrm {kg} = 0$? How do we define $[0 \, \mathrm m]$? I once was given an assignment where I was asked to deduce and write down some physical quantity. It ...
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Fundamental question about dimensional analysis

In dimensional analysis, it does not make sense to, for instance, add together two numbers with different units together. Nor does it make sense to exponentiate two numbers with different units (or ...
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7answers
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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 ...
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3answers
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The Planck constant $\hbar$, the angular momentum, and the action

Is there anything interesting to say about the fact that the Planck constant $\hbar$, the angular momentum, and the action have the same units or is it a pure coincidence?
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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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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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3answers
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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 ...
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Are units of angle really dimensionless?

I know mathematically the answer to this question is yes, and it's very obvious to see that the dimensions of a ratio cancel out, leaving behind a mathematically dimensionless quantity. However, I've ...
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Dimensionless Constants in Physics

Forgive me if this topic is too much in the realm of philosophy. John Baez has an interesting perspective on the relative importance of dimensionless constants, which he calls fundamental like alpha, ...
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Why are angles dimensionless and quantities such as length not?

So my friend asked me why angles are dimensionless, to which I replied that it's because they can be expressed as the ratio of two quantities -- lengths. Ok so far, so good. Then came the question: ...
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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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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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Simple Harmonic Motion - What are the units for $\omega_0$?

I'm trying to understand the units in: $$mx''+kx=0$$ And the general solution is $$x(t)=A \cos(\omega_0 t)+B \sin(\omega_0 t).$$ Let $\omega_0 =\sqrt{\frac{k}{m}}$ - the unit for the spring ...
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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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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 “bad taste” to have a dimensional quantity in the argument of a logarithm or exponential function?

I've been told it is never seen in physics, and "bad taste" to have it in cases of being the argument of a logarithmic function or the function raised to $e$. I can't seem to understand why, although ...
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6answers
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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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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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How can Planck units be consistent with conflicting dimensions of mass?

I suspect I'm missing something obvious, but I'm coming up blank. I've gotten pretty comfortable with so-called natural units over the years: in doing quantum mechanics/QFT, it's common to set $c = \...
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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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2answers
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What is the justification for Rayleigh's method of dimensional analysis?

It seems to me that although dimensional analysis is useful for demonstrating when a physics equation is wrong (when the dimensions are inconsistent), there is little justification for how it is often ...
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1answer
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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 speed of light and sound rational or irrational in nature?

Just as circumference of circle will remain $\pi$ for unit diameter, no matter what standard unit we take, are the speeds of light and sound irrational or rational in nature ? I'm talking about ...
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3answers
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Is a vector and a unit vector dimensionless

Lets say I have a position vector $\vec r$. Is it dimensionless or does it have a dimension of length i.e $[L]$. Also does the unit vector $\hat r$ have a dimension?
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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]

This might have some duplicated inquiry that this question or this question had, and while I think I have some of my own opinions about it, I would like to ask the community here for more opinions. ...
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1answer
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Estimating the yield of the Trinity Test using dimensional analysis

So essentially I'm trying to re-do what G.I. Taylor did to estimate the energy released by the Trinity Test using dimensional analysis. I understand all of the dimensional analysis aspects, I'm just a ...
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2answers
360 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 ...
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Why is the string length around the Planck length?

In string theory, it is assumed that a string is about the size of a Planck length, $$\ell_{string} \sim \ell_{Pl} \simeq 10^{-35}\,\text m.$$ Why that length? Why not for example a hundred times ...
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Why do we assume, in dimensional analysis, that the remaining constant is dimensionless?

Walter Lewin's first lecture (at 22:16) analyzes the time $t$ for an apple to fall to the ground, using dimensional analysis. His reasoning goes like this: It's natural to suppose that height of the ...
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2answers
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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 = \int_{-...
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10answers
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Should zero be followed by units? [duplicate]

Today at a teachers' seminar, one of the teachers asked for fun whether zero should be followed by units (e.g. 0 metres/second or 0 metre or 0 moles). This question became a hot topic, and some ...
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7answers
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Why are work and energy considered different in physics when the units are the same?

There is a question that explains work and energy on stack exchange but I did not see this aspect of my problem. Please just point me to my error and to the correct answer that I missed. What I am ...
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2answers
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When can two quantities be added together?

Whenever two things are to be added together, one typically needs to check whether this actually makes sense, and an addition is said to make sense, in principle, when the units match up. Yet, ...
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2answers
944 views

What are the mathematical models for force, acceleration and velocity?

In mechanics, the space can be described as a Riemann manifold. Forces, then, can be defined as vector fields of this manifold. Accelerations are linear functions of forces, so they are covector ...
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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 ...
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9answers
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What exactly are we doing when we set $c=1$?

I understand the idea of swapping from unit systems, say from $\mathrm{m\ s^{-1}}$ to $\mathrm{km\ s^{-1}}$, but why can we just delete the units altogether? My question is: what exactly are we doing ...
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4answers
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Meaning of dimension in dimensional analysis

I was wondering what dimension can mean in physics? I know it can mean the dimension of the space and time. But there is dimensional analysis. How is this dimension related to and different from the ...
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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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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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3answers
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What does the decay constant mean?

In my curriculum, the decay constant is "the probability of decay per unit time" To me, this seems non-sensical, as the decay constant can be greater than one, which would imply that a particle has a ...
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3answers
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A simple explanation of Kepler's Third Law

Is there a simple way to explain how Kepler's third law follows from the inverse square law that of gravity (and laws of motion) For example for Kepler's second law we can say it's because Gravity ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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3answers
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Units inside a logarithm

I have troubles understanding a seemingly simple integral in a physical context. Take a look at $\int_{V_1}^{V_2} \frac{\mathrm{d}V}{V}$ which appears in isothermal expansions (V being the volume of a ...
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6answers
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Why aren't trigonometric functions dimensionless regardless of the argument?

Consider this equation :- $$y = a\sin kt$$ where $a$ is amplitude, $y$ is displacement, $t$ is time and $k$ is some dimensionless constant. My instructor said this equation is dimensionally ...
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Why can we only add or subtract things of the same dimension (meters/second, newtons, etc)? [duplicate]

Dimension analysis is a nice tool to create functions using physics dimensions that are desirable for our lives. I know, as an axiom, of sorts to me, that addition and subtraction must conserve units, ...
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What does a unit like $C^{1/5}$ or $kg^{1/2}$ physically mean?

I'm more of a math guy than a physics guy so bear with me.... In fractal geometry, fractals are considered to have fractional dimension. For instance an object such as the Koch curve has a fractal ...