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B Orders of Magnitude- Gaps?

  1. Dec 22, 2017 #1
    I understand that the order of magnitude is the scale of a value expressed in the metric system. For example, 500 and 900 would be of the same order of magnitude as the both are in the magnitude of 10^2.
    However in the metric system, there are "gaps" between some of the orders of magnitude. For example, it goes 10^1, 10^2, 10^3, then 10^6.
    My question- is there any unit of measurement between 10^3 and 10^6? There are two unlisted orders of magnitude between these two, and it just goes from kilo to mega with no listed units or orders of magnitude in between. So there's two orders of magnitude missing. What's the reason? It seems awkward to have kilo of magnitude 3, then skip directly to mega with magnitude 6.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I think you are confusing two things. Order of magnitude always refers to a power of 10, as in an order of magnitude approximation.

    The words used for metric prefixes (such as kilo, mega) are not units. They are merely labels.

    That article says:
  4. Dec 23, 2017 #3


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    You can have values with an order of magnitude 10^5 or any power you like. We just haven't given 10^5 a special name.

    Oh and it's nothing to do with the metric system. 500ft and 900ft both have same magnitude, as does 100 miles and 300 miles.
  5. Dec 27, 2017 #4
    I think I rambled a little too much in my initial post. So the orders of magnitude, as you said, are powers of 10. The metric prefixes are just prefixes and not units. For example, you can have kilowatts, and kilograms. Kilo is the prefix, watts and grams are the units. My confusion is lies in the gaps of the metric prefixes.
    For example:
    gram: 10^0
    dekagram: 10^1
    hectogram: 10^2
    kilogram: 10^3
    megagram: 10^6

    Why is there no prefix for 10^4 or 10^5?

    Ok there's where I was confused. So if I have a mass of 10^5 grams, there's no special name for it, and I would just call it 100,000 grams, or 100 kg, etc?
  6. Dec 28, 2017 #5


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  7. Dec 28, 2017 #6


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    Because it wouldn't add a significant communication convenience to have one.
  8. Dec 28, 2017 #7


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    Even "deka" and "hecto" aren't very commonly used, as far as I've seen, except in "hectare." Neither are "deci" and "centi" except of course in "centimeter."
  9. Dec 28, 2017 #8
    Ok great thanks guys.
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