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What would you write?

  1. Mar 10, 2008 #1
    I wonder how you'd handle it. For 2,345,000 would you rather write

    • 2.234 x 10^6
    • 2.234M
    • 2.234e6
    Except for exams I never use anything but the e...-Notation. Therefore: 2.234e6. Using the SI Prefixes I just feel not capable of because I hardly can remember the value of any besides the few standard ones like m,k,M,µ..., no matter how many times I try to remember them. Writing ... x10^... however feels way to elaborate.

    What do you use? What is chiefly accepted by the physicists community?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2008 #2


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    It is just a matter of preference. I prefer to use 1 x 10^6 simply because one cannot misinterpret it.

  4. Mar 10, 2008 #3


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    Standard notation is the clearest of them all and it also makes calculations involving fractions easier. I've noticed that in exams they've started using ridiculously farfetched units just to make it slightly harder.
  5. Mar 10, 2008 #4
    If you got used to it evaluating fractions becomes just as-easy with the exp-notation.

    <cut>Not right. I should think before I write</cut>
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2008
  6. Mar 10, 2008 #5

    Claude Bile

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    Using e notation is probably the least accepted in publications because of potential confusion with the constant e.

    Where possible I use formal scientific notation, i.e. 2.234 x 10^6 (units).

    In many instances though, it is actually less confusing to use an acceptable SI prefix - such as using the nano prefix when stating optical wavelengths, e.g. saying 633 nm instead of 6.33 x 10^-7 m.

    At the end of the day, you use the notation that is the least confusing!

  7. Mar 10, 2008 #6


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    As far as I can remember, students started writing stuff in e-notation only after pocket calculators came along that use it because their small displays can't handle normal exponents. Also, computer programming languages use it for scientific notation because simple ASCII text can't display exponents. Properly-printed scientific notation is of the form [itex]6.02 \times 10^{23}[/itex], and that's the way people always wrote it by hand when I was a student. Unless of course they chose to use the metric prefixes instead.

    I personally don't mind if students use e-notation in homework assignments and on tests, but in a formal report or paper I think it looks unprofessional. I would comment on it and ask students to change it in those situations.
  8. Mar 10, 2008 #7


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    Since I'm fairly informal, I generally use metric. For bigger numbers, I go with x10^n because I don't know all of the proper prefices.
    In a school or employment situation, I'd ask the powers-that-be which they prefer and go with that.
    I've never even heard of e-notation, but thanks to jt for the explanation.
  9. Mar 11, 2008 #8
    This is correct. Yet I think that this cannot nessesarily be considered "adapting calculator notation" (which you didn't, of course) but it's rather just a quicker and more convenient way to write it. As I said I prefer e.. over x10^... because it takes less than half the time to write.

    x 10^... is mathematical standard. But Physicist never really cared what mathematicans think is correct. So why would you stick to the ellaborate x 10^... if you have got a convenient shorthand at your disposal?
  10. Mar 11, 2008 #9


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    Am I the only one who noticed you changed the number?
  11. Mar 11, 2008 #10


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    Because Euler's number (e) has a very specific meaning in mathematics and may convolute things if you use that notation.

    I wouldn't consider it more convenient if it has the potential to confuse the reader.

  12. Mar 11, 2008 #11


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    I presumed this was a typo. Of course if it is not, then I wouldn't write it any of those ways! :smile:

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