Dimensionless Quantities


by physics kiddy
Tags: dimensionless, quantities
physics kiddy
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#1
Apr17-12, 06:26 AM
P: 135
Why are pure numbers like 1 , 2 , 3 .... dimensionless and Avogadro's Number, Plank's Constant, Gravitational Constant dimensional ?
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HallsofIvy
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#2
Apr17-12, 08:11 AM
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Because the latter have dimensions! The Gravitational constant, G, appears in F= -GmM/r^2. In the metric system (mks), r has units of meters, both m and M have units of kg so that "mM/r^2" have units of [itex]kg^2/m^2[/itex]. F, a force, has units of "[itex]kg m^2/sec^2[/itex]". In order to make the units on both sides of the equation the same, G must have units of [itex]1/(kg sec^2)[/itex].

Avogadro's number is the number of molecules per mole. The number of molecules does not depend on any units so Avogadro's number has units of [itex]mol^{-1}[/itex].

Plank's constant is the "h" in [itex]h\nu[/itex] where E is energy, and so has units of [itex]kg m^2/sec^2[/itex] while [itex]\nu[/itex], a frequency, is "number of cycles per second". "Number of cycles", like "number of molecules" is just a number without units. Since we need to have left "[itex]kg m^2/sec^2[/itex]" we need . That means that h must have units of [itex]kg m^2[/itex] in the numerator and one "sec" in the denominator: [itex]kg m^2/sec[/itex].
physics kiddy
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#3
Apr17-12, 08:24 AM
P: 135
Why is 1/2 in 1/2 mv^2 dimensionless ?

aati2sh
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#4
Apr17-12, 08:31 AM
P: 5

Dimensionless Quantities


Because mv^2 has the unit same as that of Energy.
physics kiddy
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#5
Apr17-12, 08:43 AM
P: 135
Quote Quote by aati2sh View Post
Because mv^2 has the unit same as that of Energy.
Please elaborate it mathematically.
Whovian
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#6
Apr17-12, 09:58 AM
P: 642
Let this constant (which turns out to be 1/2) be C. Let k and k' be different dimensionless numbers. It's quite easy to see that we can set up

[tex]C\cdot k\cdot \left(1\ \mathrm{J}\right)=k'\cdot\left(1\ \mathrm{J}\right)[/tex]

And so

[tex]C=\dfrac{k'}{k}[/tex]

And so C's dimensionless.

I wanted to point out that c, the speed of light, is dimensionless, equal to 1, in Special (and General, I'd imagine) Relativity. Basically, [itex]299792458\ \mathrm{m}=1\ \mathrm{s}[/itex].

I've always found it useful to think of units as constants that are, in some cases, incompatible with one another, so the simplest form is just their product.


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