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Introduction to Earth and Space Science

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Lesson Focus

Metric System and Dimensional Analysis

Earth & Space Science

You will be introduced to the metric system and learn to do unit conversion through dimensional analysis.

Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

• Explain that the metric system was developed to eliminate confusion between different measurements by standardizing results and measurements for everyone.
• Explain that the metric unit of volume is the liter, which can be measured using a graduated cylinder.
• Explain that the metric unit of length is the meter.
• Explain that the metric unit of mass is the gram, which can be measured using a scale or balance.
• Use dimensional analysis to convert between metric units.

Everything You'll Have Covered

In the United States, the English system of measures is used for most measurements. The English system includes multiple types of measurement for length, volume, and mass. For example, length can be measured in inches, feet, yards, and miles. When using the English system, it is difficult to perform unit conversions because they are not related in any consistent way. Because there are multiple units for each thing that can be measured, the English system lacks consistency and can lead to confusion.

In 1795, the metric system was adopted by France as a standard system of measurement that could be used by scientists and people around the world. All measurements of distance are based on the meter; mass is based on the gram; and volume is based on the liter. The metric system is a decimal system based on multiples of 10 and represented by prefixes. For example, kilo- is used to represent 1000; centi- represents 0.01; and mili- represents 0.001.

When converting from one metric unit to another, it is helpful to use a mathematical method of problem solving called, dimensional analysis. Dimensional analysis is a way of setting up a problem in a consistent way that breaks the problem down into simple steps. Each step is a ratio that must equal 1, thus canceling out some preceding unit. This step-by-step method can be used to convert units to anything needed. Dimensional analysis can be used to solve everyday problems and has many uses in the study of chemistry and physics.

Scientists continue to use the metric system for all measurements, making their work understandable by scientists worldwide. This means that any scientist can understand what another has done, allowing them to repeat each other's experiments.

Tutorial Details

 Approximate Time 20 Minutes Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be familiar with math skills. Course Earth & Space Science Type of Tutorial Problem Solving Key Vocabulary conversion of units, dimensional analysis, grams