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# Symbols for physics terms Watch

1. By which I mean letters commonly used to denote physical quantities, such as m for mass, p for momentum, F for force etc. Can anyone help sort out these?

Distance/displacement: I have seen s and d used for distance, and s and r used for displacement. Which are more usual?

Temperature: T?

Specific heat capacity: [c] or [C]?
2. Google. Ultimately they can change quite a lot. T would be more likely for Temp. though as t (for me anyway) points towards time. As for SHC, god knows, but I would have though C would be go towards Capacitance. I tend to use s for displacement. Also I would have thought c would be more commonly used for the speed of light.
3. After searching through many pages, I have found even more conflicting examples:
l and x for distance
x for displacement

Does anyone know which are correct/more usual?
4. (Original post by j.alexanderh)
After searching through many pages, I have found even more conflicting examples:
l and x for distance
x for displacement

Does anyone know which are correct/more usual?
It depends entirely on context. You might be affected, for example, by the other quantities you have to consider.

There is no rule for 'l' vs 'x' or whatever.
5. There's no one correct standard really, a lot of letters are used to denote various things. There are some sort of general rules, like someone said before, using t for time and c for the speed of light but ultimately, it various depending on what area of physics you're actually talking about and the equations you're using. It's hardly a big deal, you should know from the equations themselves what everything stands for and represents, whether it's a lowercase or uppercase T, shouldn't immediately throw you off, just use your common sense. If you think someone is going to misunderstand what you're writing, simply write beside it something like "Where T= Temperature and t = Time". Problem solved.

That being said, one thing really annoys me and that's the use of V for velocity and for frequency. Especially when lecturers make very little effort to distinguish the two and they so frequently appear in equations and derivations beside each other in various forms.
6. (Original post by You Failed)
There's no one correct standard really, a lot of letters are used to denote various things. There are some sort of general rules, like someone said before, using t for time and c for the speed of light but ultimately, it various depending on what area of physics you're actually talking about and the equations you're using. It's hardly a big deal, you should know from the equations themselves what everything stands for and represents, whether it's a lowercase or uppercase T, shouldn't immediately throw you off, just use your common sense. If you think someone is going to misunderstand what you're writing, simply write beside it something like "Where T= Temperature and t = Time". Problem solved.

That being said, one thing really annoys me and that's the use of V for velocity and for frequency. Especially when lecturers make very little effort to distinguish the two and they so frequently appear in equations and derivations beside each other in various forms.
So there is no consistent way of writing quantities such as distance? This seems quite illogical.
7. (Original post by You Failed)
That being said, one thing really annoys me and that's the use of V for velocity and for frequency. Especially when lecturers make very little effort to distinguish the two and they so frequently appear in equations and derivations beside each other in various forms.
I also hate that v scenario. When I first saw E = hv I was like I always thought photons travel at same speed? I would always advise changing v to f for frequency.
8. And anyway you'd probably best have posted this in the Physics, study help forum - just advice for the future
9. (Original post by soup)
And anyway you'd probably best have posted this in the Physics, study help forum - just advice for the future
10. (Original post by You Failed)
There's no one correct standard really, a lot of letters are used to denote various things. There are some sort of general rules, like someone said before, using t for time and c for the speed of light but ultimately, it various depending on what area of physics you're actually talking about and the equations you're using. It's hardly a big deal, you should know from the equations themselves what everything stands for and represents, whether it's a lowercase or uppercase T, shouldn't immediately throw you off, just use your common sense. If you think someone is going to misunderstand what you're writing, simply write beside it something like "Where T= Temperature and t = Time". Problem solved.

That being said, one thing really annoys me and that's the use of V for velocity and for frequency. Especially when lecturers make very little effort to distinguish the two and they so frequently appear in equations and derivations beside each other in various forms.
I'm a third year physics student and this still drives me up the wall! Especially if it's in some complex astro equation where it isn't at all obvious from the context which one it's supposed to be.

But yeah, there are no hard and fast rules regarding what symbol stands for what, you'll just have to get used to whatever convention your lecturer is using, and apart from that one example it's usually obvious what they mean. It isn't a particularly big deal.
11. (Original post by j.alexanderh)
So there is no consistent way of writing quantities such as distance? This seems quite illogical.
No, there is not, you'll consistently see distance being denoted by a range of letters such as d, x, l and even s (thinking of the equations of motion there). It's not illogical, in the sense that, an appropriate and best notation will be chosen for a given situation. It would be illogical to fix a letter specifically for distance only to find it's completely inappropriate for a certain set of equations where other quantities may more appropriately be named by the notation currently being used for distance. Then you'd have to rename those quantities to something inappropriate and you'd be complaining about that instead.

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