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Scientific Notation

  1. Sep 14, 2013 #1
    So all my life I have disliked writing in scientific notation's notation as mx10n where m and n are constants, because it looks indistinguishable from m times x times 10 to the n power. Alternatively it looks like the cross product of m and 10^n, which makes little sense because m and n are not vectors. Calculators and programs tend to display numbers in "calculator notation" men or mEn, which looks like m times Euler's constant to the n power or m times a variable E to the n.

    My question is aside from m(10n) which I have never seen anyone write it as, is there an accepted way of writing values in scientific notation that doesn't require the use of symbols or letters that can or do already mean something?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2013 #2


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    nEm is probably the closest you'll find.
  4. Sep 14, 2013 #3
    That has the same issue that E could be mistaken for a variable.
  5. Sep 14, 2013 #4


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    Do you know of any symbols that don't " already mean something"? It certainly not unusual for symbols to have different meanings in different situations- you just have learn their use. And, in fact, it is very unusual to use "x" to indicate multiplication in anything other than basic arithmetic! It is more common, in algebra and above, to use parentheses (which would be confused with your suggested "m(10n"!) or, occasionally, "*", adopted from computer languages.
  6. Sep 14, 2013 #5


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    often you scale your units by using the magnitude prefix (centi,milli,micro,etc) to avoid writing magnitude numerically.
  7. Sep 14, 2013 #6
    You could always write ##m \cdot 10^n##. I don't believe anyone will find that confusing.
  8. Sep 14, 2013 #7


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    Euler's constant is always written lower case 'e' and is never capitalized.
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