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Homework Help: The characteristic time

  1. Nov 24, 2014 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    Hi guys,

    I am not sure what the characteristic time of something is. I've been looking online but am getting confused with the definitions. Say, for example, the characteristic time for some particles suspended it water to descend to the bottom.

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
    It is the time it takes on average for the particles to reach the bottom or is it the time it takes for the last particle to hit the floor?

    Thanks very much,

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 24, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    How is this term defined?
    My guess is that it would be the average time for a particle to reach the bottom.
  4. Nov 24, 2014 #3
    Hi Mark,

    Its defined as "The characteristic time is an estimate of the order of magnitude of the reaction time scale of a system. It can loosely be defined as the inverse of the reaction rate." But Im really not sure what that means!
    Thanks for replying!
  5. Nov 24, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    I believe that "inverse" here means reciprocal. The reaction rate would be the number of reactions per unit of time. According to the definition you provided, I infer that characteristic time would be the time for 1 reaction. That's my best guess.
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