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Physical quantities standard and units in physics general knowledge

Physical Quantities Measurements Standards & Units > Important Physics GK [PDF]


Physical Quantities, Measurements Standard and Units GK

Physical quantities, Measurements standard and units general knowledge (general science gs) for UPSC, IAS, Banking, Railway SSC and other competitive examinations.

Physical Quantities
Standard and Units
Physical Quantities With Their Symbols And Units in SI & c.g.s System

To explain the natural phenomena we take the help of physics. Physics enable us to understand logically as well as mathematically all natural phenomena. That’s why we introduced the Physical quantity and unit.

Physical Quantities

All the laws of physics are generally expressed in terms of Physical Quantities. As an example, if you go to school or college from your home by walk, you need to know your speed and time. If you start to go at 9:30 AM and reach at 10 AM, you spend 30 minutes by walk. Again distance between your school and home is 6 Km then you can easily calculate your walking speed which is [Distance/Time] =  200m/minute. Thus from the above example, time, speed and distance are Physical Quantities. Some other kinds of physical quantities are force, momentum, temperature, density, area, pressure, acceleration, etc.

We need to measure the physical quantities to obtain physically meaningful results to understand physics. So measurement is necessary for physics.

Classification of Physical Quantities:

Generally, Physical Quantities are classified into two classes such as fundamental and derived quantities.

Fundamental Quantities: They are not defined in terms of other physical quantities. Example: Length, Mass and Time.

Derived Quantities: Their definition derived from mainly fundamental physical quantities. Example: speed, area, acceleration, momentum, density, etc. In case of speed to define it, you need to two fundamental quantities like Length and time.

Classification of Physical quantities in terms of Direction:

Physical quantities are also classified into two types one is Scalar and the other is Vector quantity.

Scalar Quantity: Physical quantities that have the only magnitude NOT direction. Speed, density, mass, work, energy, power, etc are scalar.

Vector Quantity: A vector quantity is one that has BOTH magnitude and direction. Force, momentum, displacement, acceleration, velocity, etc are vector quantities.

Explanation: Vector quantities are denoted by putting a ‘bar’ (—) or ‘arrow’ (→) sign. Like force is a vector quantity and denoted by –

Now if you push a table along north direction by applying force 5 Newton, then according to vector rule, it is written as 5N-North.  Here 5 is a scalar and if you put its direction (here North), it becomes a vector.

Standard and Unit:

To measure the physical quantities we need to introduce standards and units. Measurement of physical quantities consists of two steps –

  1. one is a choice of the standard and
  2. the other is a comparison of the standard to the quantity to be measured.

Here the choice of the standard is known as Unit. A comparison of the standard to the quantity to be measured provides the total measurement of that quantity. Consider the length of a pen, it is about 10 cm long. It means that the pen’s length is 10 times the unit of length, centimeter.

Units depend on choice. Each choice of units leads to a new system or set of units. You may consider any length as a unit of length. But it is not standard. Earlier, people from various countries used different systems of units. In the year 1960 GCWM recommended that a metric system of measurements called the International System of Units or SI Unit (System Internationale).

Classification of Units:

Units are also classified into two types

Fundamental Units: can not be derived from other unit. Three fundamental units are Meter, Kilogram and Second.

Basic UnitsThere are seven basic units – meter (m), kilogram (kg), second (s), ampere (A), kelvin (K), mol, Candela (Cd).

Supplementary unitsPlane angle and Solid angle are considered as Supplementary units.

Derived Units: can be derived from other units.

Unit of Length: In SI system the unit of length is meter. One meter is defined as the distance between two lines on a particular platinum-iridium rod at 0° C. This rod is kept in the IOWM office located near Paris. In modern physics, it is also defined as the path travel by light in free space during a time interval of 1/299792458 second. In c.g.s and fps system, the unit of length is centimeter and foot respectively. For the large distance, we used Kilometer, Mega meter mile, etc. To measure the distance in space we used the astronomical unit or AU, light-year, and parsec. 1 AU is the distance between earth and sun.

1 parsec = 3.2615 light-years = 206264.8 AU = 3.085×1016 m.
1 Light-year = 63241.1 AU = 9.461 trillion km = 9460730472580800 m.
1 AU = 149597870 km. = 149597870700 m.
1 km = 1000 m. = 10m = 105 cm.
1 m = 100 cm.

Similarly, a very small distance is measured by millimeter (mm), micrometer (μm), angstrom (Å), nanometer (nm) and femtometer (fm).

1 m = 106 μm = 109 nm = 1010 Å = 1015 fm.

Units are also classified into various types such as C.G.S, M.K.S, F.P.S, etc. CGS is for a small unit and mks are for larger.

Unit of Mass: In SI system the unit of mass is Kilogram (Kg). One kg is defined as the mass of a particular solid cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy kept at Sevres. To measure the large masses we used tonne. In c.g.s and f.p.s system, the unit of mass is gram and pound respectively.

1 tonne is equal to 103 kg.

Unit of Time: In SI system the unit of time is second. It is represented by small later “s”. Previously it was defined as the 1/86400th part of a mean solar day. But in modern physics, 1 second is redefined as atomic clock such as time is taken to complete 9192631770 periods of transition of the two hyper levels of the ground state of the Caesium 133 atom.

Physical Quantities With Their Symbols And Units in SI & c.g.s System

 Symbol*  Unit in SI  SI Unit
in c.g.s
  c.g.s Unit
 Length  l  Meter  m  Centimeter  cm
 Mass  M  Kilogram  kg  gram  g
 time  t  Second  s  second  s
 I  ampere  A  biot  biot
 temperature  T  kelvin  K  kelvin  K
 amount of
 n  Mole  mol    
 Iv  Candela  Cd    
 area  A  square metre  m2  square
 volume  V  Cubic meter  m3  Cubic
 v, s  meter/second  m/s  cm/second  cm/sec
 acceleration  a  meter/second2  m/s2  cm/second2  cm/s2
 L  kg-m2/s    g-cm2/s  
(or angular
 ω  rad s−1  –  rad s−1  –
 Capacitance  C  Farad  F  statfarad  statF
 wavenumber  k  reciprocal metre  m-1  reciprocal cm  cm-1
 J  ampere/meter2  A/m2    
mass density
 ρ  kg/cubic metre  kg/m3  gram/metre3  g/m3
 Q  coulomb  C  statcoulomb  e.s.u
 V  Volt  V  statVolt  statV
 R  ohm  Ω  –  –
 Energy  E  Joule  j  Erg  erg
 Force  F  Newton  N  Dyne  dyn
 Frequency  f  Hertz  Hz  Cycle/sec  
 B  tesla  tesla  gauss  gauss
 μ  unit less  –  unit less  –
 Inductance  L  henry  H  abhenry  abH
 Momentum  p  kg-m/s  kg-m/s  g-m/s  g-m/s
 Permeability  μ  henry/meter  H m−1  abhenry/cm  abH/cm
 Permittivity  ε  farad/meter  C2N-1m-2    
 plane angle  Θ  radian  rad  –  –
 solid angle  Ω  steradian  sr  –  –
 pressure  P  pascal (N/m2)  Pa  bar  Dyne/cm2
 power  P  watt or
(Joule / second)
 W  Erg/second  
heat capacity
 c  J kg−1 K−1      
 Wavelength  λ  Meter  m  Centimeter  cm
 Entropy  S  Joule/Kelvin  J K−1  –  –
   Pascal-second  Pa·s poise or
 Heat  Q  Joul  J  Erg  erg
 Y  N m−1 or J m−2    Dyn cm−1/erg m−2  
 μ  Joule/ mol  J mol−1    

* The bolt symbols represent vector quantities.

Read: Gravitation – Physics > GK

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Hi, I am SOM, a State Added (WB) Lecturer in Physics at a College, Part-time blogger, and founder of, started blogging since 2015 and still learning.