SI System of Measurement

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The Metric System - Explained

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Key Questions

  • SI units provide a way for scientists around the world to record information about observations in a manner that all scientists around the world will understand.

    Imagine if scientists in the US had one way of measuring mass, scientists in Europe had a different method, and scientists in Asia had a third method. Nobody would really know what anyone else was talking about.

    The Mars Climate Orbiter mission provides a great example of why using SI units is so important.

  • Multiply or divide by powers of 10.

    SI units are easy to convert because you multiply or divide by 10 - sometimes more than once. Think of a staircase - every time you step up a stair, you divide by 10; every time you step down a stair, you multiply by 10.

    Another way to think of it is: as you move down the staircase, the decimal moves to the right; as you climb up the staircase, the decimal moves to the left.

    If you need to memorize the order of the prefixes, there are a number of mnemonics that can help you. My personal favorite is "King Henry Dropped over Dead Converting Metrics."

    Videos from: Noel Pauller

  • This key question hasn't been answered yet. Answer question


  • Ernest Z. answered · 10 months ago