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Order of Magnitude

The order of magnitude of a number is the power of 10 that most closely approximates it. It refers to the scale (or size) of a value. Each power of 10 represents a different order of magnitude.

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Height of a human

  • The height of an average adult in the UK is about 1.70 m.
    • The order of magnitude estimate for the height of a human is 1 m.
      • 1 m is more appropriate than 0.1 m or 10 m.
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Mass of the Sun

  • The actual mass of the Sun is 1.989 ×1030 kg.
    • A sensible order of magnitude estimate to use is 1030 kg.
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Walking speed

  • We can estimate that we walk at a speed of 1 m/s.
  • In reality, we might walk slightly faster or slower - but 1 m/s is a better estimate than 0.1 m/s, 10 m/s or 100 m/s!

Jump to other topics

1Measurements & Errors

2Particles & Radiation


4Mechanics & Materials


6Further Mechanics & Thermal Physics (A2 only)

7Fields & Their Consequences (A2 only)

8Nuclear Physics (A2 only)

9Option: Astrophysics (A2 only)

10Option: Medical Physics (A2 only)

11Option: Engineering Physics (A2 only)

12Option: Turning Points in Physics (A2 only)

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