Appendix D Glossary of Key Symbols and Notation

In this glossary, key symbols and notation are briefly defined. 

Symbol Definition
\overline{\text{any symbol}} average (indicated by a bar over a symbol—e.g., \bar{v} is average velocity)
^{\circ} \text{C} Celsius degree
^{\circ} \text{F} Fahrenheit degree
// parallel
\bot perpendicular
\propto proportional to
\pm plus or minus
_0 zero as a subscript denotes an initial value
\alpha alpha rays
\alpha angular acceleration
\alpha temperature coefficient(s) of resistivity
\beta beta rays
\beta sound level
\beta volume coefficient of expansion
\beta ^{-} electron emitted in nuclear beta decay
\beta ^{+} positron decay
\gamma gamma rays
\gamma surface tension
\gamma = 1/ \sqrt{1 - v^2 / c^2} a constant used in relativity
\Delta change in whatever quantity follows
\delta uncertainty in whatever quantity follows
\mathit\Delta E change in energy between the initial and final orbits of an electron in an atom
\mathit\Delta E uncertainty in energy
\mathit\Delta m difference in mass between initial and final products
\mathit\Delta N number of decays that occur
\mathit\Delta p change in momentum
\mathit\Delta p uncertainty in momentum
\mathit\Delta \text{PE}_{\text{g}} change in gravitational potential energy
\mathit\Delta \theta rotation angle
\mathit\Delta s distance traveled along a circular path
\mathit\Delta t uncertainty in time
\mathit\Delta t_0 proper time as measured by an observer at rest relative to the process
\mathit\Delta V potential difference
\mathit\Delta x uncertainty in position
\epsilon _0 permittivity of free space
\eta viscosity
\theta angle between the force vector and the displacement vector
\theta angle between two lines
\theta contact angle
\theta direction of the resultant
\theta _b Brewster’s angle
\theta _c critical angle
\kappa dielectric constant
\lambda decay constant of a nuclide
\lambda wavelength
\lambda _n wavelength in a medium
\mu _0 permeability of free space
\mu _k coefficient of kinetic friction
\mu _s coefficient of static friction
v_e electron neutrino
\pi ^+ positive pion
\pi ^- negative pion
\pi ^0 neutral pion
\rho density
\rho _{\text{c}} critical density, the density needed to just halt universal expansion
\rho _{\text{fl}} fluid density
\overline{\rho} _{\text{obj}} average density of an object
\rho / \rho _{\text{w}} specific gravity
\tau characteristic time constant for a resistance and inductance (RL) or resistance and capacitance (RC) circuit
\tau characteristic time for a resistor and capacitor (RC) circuit
\tau torque
\Upsilon upsilon meson
\Phi magnetic flux
\phi phase angle
\Omega ohm (unit)
\omega angular velocity
\text{A} ampere (current unit)
A area
A cross-sectional area
A total number of nucleons
a acceleration
a_{\text{B}} Bohr radius
a_{\text{c}} centripetal acceleration
a_{\text{t}} tangential acceleration
\text{AC} alternating current
\text{AM} amplitude modulation
\text{atm} atmosphere
B baryon number
B blue quark color
\overline{B} antiblue (yellow) antiquark color
b quark flavor bottom or beauty
B bulk modulus
B magnetic field strength
B_{\text{int}} electron’s intrinsic magnetic field
B_{\text{orb}} orbital magnetic field
\text{BE} binding energy of a nucleus—it is the energy required to completely disassemble it into separate protons and neutrons
\text{BE/A} binding energy per nucleon
\text{Bq} becquerel—one decay per second
C capacitance (amount of charge stored per volt)
C coulomb (a fundamental SI unit of charge)
C_{\text{p}} total capacitance in parallel
C_{\text{s}} total capacitance in series
\text{CG} center of gravity
\text{CM} center of mass
c quark flavor charm
c specific heat
c speed of light
\text{Cal} kilocalorie
\text{cal} calorie
\textit{\text{COP}}_{\text{hp}} heat pump’s coefficient of performance
\textit{\text{COP}}_{\text{ref}} coefficient of performance for refrigerators and air conditioners
\text{cos} \theta cosine
\text{cot} \theta cotangent
\text{csc} \theta cosecant
D diffusion constant
d displacement
d quark flavor down
\text{dB} decibel
d_i distance of an image from the center of a lens
d_o distance of an object from the center of a lens
\text{DC} direct current
E electric field strength
\epsilon emf (voltage) or Hall electromotive force
\text{emf} electromotive force
E energy of a single photon
E nuclear reaction energy
E relativistic total energy
E total energy
E_0 ground state energy for hydrogen
E_0 rest energy
\text{EC} electron capture
E_{\text{cap}} energy stored in a capacitor
\textit{\text{Eff}} efficiency—the useful work output divided by the energy input
\textit{\text{Eff}}_{\textit{\text{C}}} Carnot efficiency
E_{\text{in}} energy consumed (food digested in humans)
E_{\text{ind}} energy stored in an inductor
E_{\text{out}} energy output
e emissivity of an object
e^+ antielectron or positron
\text{eV} electron volt
\text{F} farad (unit of capacitance, a coulomb per volt)
\text{F} focal point of a lens
\textbf{\text{F}} force
F magnitude of a force
F restoring force
F_{\text{B}} buoyant force
F_{\text{c}} centripetal force
F_{\text{i}} force input
\textbf{F}_{\text{net}} net force
F_{\text{o}} force output
\text{FM} frequency modulation
f focal length
f frequency
f_0 resonant frequency of a resistance, inductance, and capacitance (RLC) series circuit
f_0 threshold frequency for a particular material (photoelectric effect)
f_1 fundamental
f_2 first overtone
f_3 second overtone
f_{\text{B}} beat frequency
f_{\text{k}} magnitude of kinetic friction
f_{\text{s}} magnitude of static friction
G gravitational constant
G green quark color
\overline{G} antigreen (magenta) antiquark color
g acceleration due to gravity
g gluons (carrier particles for strong nuclear force)
h change in vertical position
h height above some reference point
h maximum height of a projectile
h Planck’s constant
hf photon energy
h_i height of the image
h_o height of the object
I electric current
I intensity
I intensity of a transmitted wave
I moment of inertia (also called rotational inertia)
I_0 intensity of a polarized wave before passing through a filter
I_{\text{ave}} average intensity for a continuous sinusoidal electromagnetic wave
I_{\text{rms}} average current
J joule
J / \psi Joules/psi meson
\text{K} kelvin
k Boltzmann constant
k force constant of a spring
K_{\alpha} x rays created when an electron falls into an n = 1 shell vacancy from the n = 3 shell
K_{\beta} x rays created when an electron falls into an n = 2 shell vacancy from the n = 3 shell
\text{kcal} kilocalorie
\text{KE} translational kinetic energy
\text{KE} + \text{PE} mechanical energy
\text{KE}_e kinetic energy of an ejected electron
\text{KE}_{\text{rel}} relativistic kinetic energy
\text{KE}_{\text{rot}} rotational kinetic energy
\overline{\text{KE}} thermal energy
\text{kg} kilogram (a fundamental SI unit of mass)
L angular momentum
\text{L} liter
L magnitude of angular momentum
L self-inductance
\ell angular momentum quantum number
L_{\alpha} x rays created when an electron falls into an n = 2 shell from the n = 3 shell
L_e electron total family number
L_{\mu} muon family total number
L_{\tau} tau family total number
L_{\text{f}} heat of fusion
L_{\text{f}} and L_{\text{v}} latent heat coefficients
L_{\text{orb}} orbital angular momentum
L_{\text{s}} heat of sublimation
L_{\text{v}} heat of vaporization
L_z z – component of the angular momentum
M angular magnification
M mutual inductance
\text{m} indicates metastable state
m magnification
m mass
m mass of an object as measured by a person at rest relative to the object
\text{m} meter (a fundamental SI unit of length)
m order of interference
m overall magnification (product of the individual magnifications)
m(^AX) atomic mass of a nuclide
\text{MA} mechanical advantage
m_{\text{e}} magnification of the eyepiece
m_e mass of the electron
m_{\ell} angular momentum projection quantum number
m_n mass of a neutron
m_{\text{o}} magnification of the objective lens
\text{mol} mole
m_p mass of a proton
m_{\text{s}} spin projection quantum number
N magnitude of the normal force
\text{N} newton
\textbf{\text{N}} normal force
N number of neutrons
n index of refraction
n number of free charges per unit volume
N_A Avogadro’s number
N_{\text{r}} Reynolds number
\text{N} \cdot \text{m} newton-meter (work-energy unit)
\text{N} \cdot \text{m} newtons times meters (SI unit of torque)
\text{OE} other energy
P power
P power of a lens
P pressure
\textbf{\text{p}} momentum
p momentum magnitude
p relativistic momentum
\textbf{\text{p}}_{\text{tot}} total momentum
\textbf{\text{p}}^{\prime}_{\text{tot}} total momentum some time later
p_{\text{abs}} absolute pressure
p_{\text{atm}} atmospheric pressure
p_{\text{atm}} standard atmospheric pressure
\text{PE} potential energy
\text{PE}_{el} elastic potential energy
\text{PE}_{\text{elec}} electric potential energy
\text{PE}_s potential energy of a spring
P_g gauge pressure
P_{in} power consumption or input
P_{out} useful power output going into useful work or a desired, form of energy
Q latent heat
Q net heat transferred into a system
Q flow rate—volume per unit time flowing past a point
+Q positive charge
-Q negative charge
q electron charge
q_p charge of a proton
q test charge
\text{QF} quality factor
R activity, the rate of decay
R radius of curvature of a spherical mirror
R red quark color
\overline{R} antired (cyan) quark color
R resistance
\text{R} resultant or total displacement
R Rydberg constant
R universal gas constant
r distance from pivot point to the point where a force is applied
r internal resistance
r_{\bot} perpendicular lever arm
r radius of a nucleus
r radius of curvature
r resistivity
\text{r or rad} radiation dose unit
\text{rem} roentgen equivalent man
\text{rad} radian
\text{RBE} relative biological effectiveness
RC resistor and capacitor circuit
\text{rms} root mean square
r_n radius of the nth H-atom orbit
R_p total resistance of a parallel connection
R_s total resistance of a series connection
R_s Schwarzschild radius
S entropy
\textbf{\text{S}} intrinsic spin (intrinsic angular momentum)
S magnitude of the intrinsic (internal) spin angular momentum
S shear modulus
S strangeness quantum number
s quark flavor strange
\text{s} second (fundamental SI unit of time)
s spin quantum number
\textbf{\text{s}} total displacement
\text{sec} \theta secant
\text{sin} \theta sine
s_z z-component of spin angular momentum
T period—time to complete one oscillation
T temperature
T_c critical temperature—temperature below which a material becomes a superconductor
T tension
\text{T} tesla (magnetic field strength B)
t quark flavor top or truth
t time
t_{1/2} half-life—the time in which half of the original nuclei decay
\text{tan} \theta tangent
U internal energy
u quark flavor up
\text{u} unified atomic mass unit
\textbf{\text{u}} velocity of an object relative to an observer
\textbf{\text{u}}^{\prime} velocity relative to another observer
V electric potential
V terminal voltage
\text{V} volt (unit)
V volume
\textbf{\text{v}} relative velocity between two observers
v speed of light in a material
\textbf{\text{v}} velocity
\overline{\textbf{\text{v}}} average fluid velocity
V_B - V_A change in potential
\textbf{\text{v}}_d drift velocity
V_p transformer input voltage
V_{\text{rms}} rms voltage
V_s transformer output voltage
\textbf{\text{v}}_{\text{tot}} total velocity
v_{\text{w}} propagation speed of sound or other wave
\textbf{\text{v}}_{\text{w}} wave velocity
W work
W net work done by a system
\text{W} watt
w weight
w_{\text{fl}} weight of the fluid displaced by an object
W_c total work done by all conservative forces
W_{nc} total work done by all nonconservative forces
W_{out} useful work output
X amplitude
\text{X} symbol for an element
\begin{matrix} Z \\ A \end{matrix} K_N notation for a particular nuclide
x deformation or displacement from equilibrium
x displacement of a spring from its undeformed position
x horizontal axis
X_C capacitive reactance
X_L inductive reactance
x_{\text{rms}} root mean square diffusion distance
y vertical axis
Y elastic modulus or Young’s modulus
Z atomic number (number of protons in a nucleus)
Z impedance



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Douglas College Physics 1207 Copyright © August 22, 2016 by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.