Continue reading...As a university teacher and as a PF member, I have often noted that students are largely unaware of or not using dimensional analysis to help them in their pursuit of knowledge or to check their results. A number of recent threads on PF have also highlighted this issue. This intent of this Insight is therefore to provide a basic introduction to the subject with a number of examples with which the reader may be familiar. The discussion on the Buckingham pi theorem is a bit more involved and can be skipped without missing the basic concepts.
What is physical dimension?
A common misconception when dimensional analysis is invoked is that students mix up the subject with the number of spatial dimensions, which is not what we want to discuss here. Instead, physical dimensions refer to the type of quantity we are dealing with. It is related to, but not exactly the same as, what units we can use to describe a physical quantity. For example, a length can be measured in centimeters or...