College Physics for AP® Courses

# D | Glossary of Key Symbols and Notation

College Physics for AP® CoursesD | Glossary of Key Symbols and Notation

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

Symbol Definition
$any symbol ¯ any symbol ¯$ average (indicated by a bar over a symbol—e.g., $v¯v¯$ is average velocity)
$° C ° C$ Celsius degree
$° F ° F$ Fahrenheit degree
$// //$ parallel
$⊥ ⊥$ perpendicular
$∝ ∝$ proportional to
$± ±$ plus or minus
$0 0$ zero as a subscript denotes an initial value
$α α$ alpha rays
$α α$ angular acceleration
$α α$ temperature coefficient(s) of resistivity
$β β$ beta rays
$β β$ sound level
$β β$ volume coefficient of expansion
$β − β −$ electron emitted in nuclear beta decay
$β + β +$ positron decay
$γ γ$ gamma rays
$γ γ$ surface tension
$γ = 1 / 1 − v 2 / c 2 γ = 1 / 1 − v 2 / c 2$ a constant used in relativity
$Δ Δ$ change in whatever quantity follows
$δ δ$ uncertainty in whatever quantity follows
$ΔE ΔE$ change in energy between the initial and final orbits of an electron in an atom
$ΔE ΔE$ uncertainty in energy
$Δm Δm$ difference in mass between initial and final products
$ΔN ΔN$ number of decays that occur
$Δp Δp$ change in momentum
$Δp Δp$ uncertainty in momentum
$Δ PE g Δ PE g$ change in gravitational potential energy
$Δθ Δθ$ rotation angle
$Δs Δs$ distance traveled along a circular path
$Δt Δt$ uncertainty in time
$Δt 0 Δt 0$ proper time as measured by an observer at rest relative to the process
$ΔV ΔV$ potential difference
$Δx Δx$ uncertainty in position
$ε 0 ε 0$ permittivity of free space
$η η$ viscosity
$θ θ$ angle between the force vector and the displacement vector
$θ θ$ angle between two lines
$θ θ$ contact angle
$θ θ$ direction of the resultant
$θ b θ b$ Brewster's angle
$θ c θ c$ critical angle
$κ κ$ dielectric constant
$λ λ$ decay constant of a nuclide
$λ λ$ wavelength
$λ n λ n$ wavelength in a medium
$μ 0 μ 0$ permeability of free space
$μ k μ k$ coefficient of kinetic friction
$μ s μ s$ coefficient of static friction
$v e v e$ electron neutrino
$π + π +$ positive pion
$π − π −$ negative pion
$π 0 π 0$ neutral pion
$ρ ρ$ density
$ρ c ρ c$ critical density, the density needed to just halt universal expansion
$ρ fl ρ fl$ fluid density
$ρ ¯ obj ρ ¯ obj$ average density of an object
$ρ / ρ w ρ / ρ w$ specific gravity
$τ τ$ characteristic time constant for a resistance and inductance $(RL)(RL)$ or resistance and capacitance $(RC)(RC)$ circuit
$τ τ$ characteristic time for a resistor and capacitor $(RC)(RC)$ circuit
$τ τ$ torque
$Υ Υ$ upsilon meson
$Φ Φ$ magnetic flux
$ϕ ϕ$ phase angle
$Ω Ω$ ohm (unit)
$ω ω$ angular velocity
$A A$ ampere (current unit)
$A A$ area
$A A$ cross-sectional area
$A A$ total number of nucleons
$a a$ acceleration
$a B a B$ Bohr radius
$a c a c$ centripetal acceleration
$a t a t$ tangential acceleration
$AC AC$ alternating current
$AM AM$ amplitude modulation
$atm atm$ atmosphere
$B B$ baryon number
$B B$ blue quark color
$B ¯ B ¯$ antiblue (yellow) antiquark color
$b b$ quark flavor bottom or beauty
$B B$ bulk modulus
$B B$ magnetic field strength
$B int B int$ electron’s intrinsic magnetic field
$B orb B orb$ orbital magnetic field
$BE BE$ binding energy of a nucleus—it is the energy required to completely disassemble it into separate protons and neutrons
$BE / A BE / A$ binding energy per nucleon
$Bq Bq$ becquerel—one decay per second
$C C$ capacitance (amount of charge stored per volt)
$C C$ coulomb (a fundamental SI unit of charge)
$C p C p$ total capacitance in parallel
$C s C s$ total capacitance in series
$CG CG$ center of gravity
$CM CM$ center of mass
$c c$ quark flavor charm
$c c$ specific heat
$c c$ speed of light
$Cal Cal$ kilocalorie
$cal cal$ calorie
$COP hp COP hp$ heat pump’s coefficient of performance
$COP ref COP ref$ coefficient of performance for refrigerators and air conditioners
$cos θ cos θ$ cosine
$cot θ cot θ$ cotangent
$csc θ csc θ$ cosecant
$D D$ diffusion constant
$d d$ displacement
$d d$ quark flavor down
$dB dB$ decibel
$d i d i$ distance of an image from the center of a lens
$d o d o$ distance of an object from the center of a lens
$DC DC$ direct current
$E E$ electric field strength
$ε ε$ emf (voltage) or Hall electromotive force
$emf emf$ electromotive force
$E E$ energy of a single photon
$E E$ nuclear reaction energy
$E E$ relativistic total energy
$E E$ total energy
$E 0 E 0$ ground state energy for hydrogen
$E 0 E 0$ rest energy
$EC EC$ electron capture
$E cap E cap$ energy stored in a capacitor
$Eff Eff$ efficiency—the useful work output divided by the energy input
$Eff C Eff C$ Carnot efficiency
$E in E in$ energy consumed (food digested in humans)
$E ind E ind$ energy stored in an inductor
$E out E out$ energy output
$e e$ emissivity of an object
$e + e +$ antielectron or positron
$eV eV$ electron volt
$F F$ farad (unit of capacitance, a coulomb per volt)
$F F$ focal point of a lens
$F F$ force
$F F$ magnitude of a force
$F F$ restoring force
$F B F B$ buoyant force
$F c F c$ centripetal force
$F i F i$ force input
$F net F net$ net force
$F o F o$ force output
$FM FM$ frequency modulation
$f f$ focal length
$f f$ frequency
$f 0 f 0$ resonant frequency of a resistance, inductance, and capacitance $(RLC)(RLC)$ series circuit
$f 0 f 0$ threshold frequency for a particular material (photoelectric effect)
$f 1 f 1$ fundamental
$f 2 f 2$ first overtone
$f 3 f 3$ second overtone
$f B f B$ beat frequency
$f k f k$ magnitude of kinetic friction
$f s f s$ magnitude of static friction
$G G$ gravitational constant
$G G$ green quark color
$G ¯ G ¯$ antigreen (magenta) antiquark color
$g g$ acceleration due to gravity
$g g$ gluons (carrier particles for strong nuclear force)
$h h$ change in vertical position
$h h$ height above some reference point
$h h$ maximum height of a projectile
$h h$ Planck's constant
$hf hf$ photon energy
$h i h i$ height of the image
$h o h o$ height of the object
$I I$ electric current
$I I$ intensity
$I I$ intensity of a transmitted wave
$I I$ moment of inertia (also called rotational inertia)
$I 0 I 0$ intensity of a polarized wave before passing through a filter
$I ave I ave$ average intensity for a continuous sinusoidal electromagnetic wave
$I rms I rms$ average current
$J J$ joule
$J / Ψ J / Ψ$ Joules/psi meson
$K K$ kelvin
$k k$ Boltzmann constant
$k k$ force constant of a spring
$K α K α$ x rays created when an electron falls into an $n=1n=1$ shell vacancy from the $n=3n=3$ shell
$K β K β$ x rays created when an electron falls into an $n=2n=2$ shell vacancy from the $n=3n=3$ shell
$kcal kcal$ kilocalorie
$KE KE$ translational kinetic energy
$KE + PE KE + PE$ mechanical energy
$KE e KE e$ kinetic energy of an ejected electron
$KE rel KE rel$ relativistic kinetic energy
$KE rot KE rot$ rotational kinetic energy
$KE ¯ KE ¯$ thermal energy
$kg kg$ kilogram (a fundamental SI unit of mass)
$L L$ angular momentum
$L L$ liter
$L L$ magnitude of angular momentum
$L L$ self-inductance
$ℓ ℓ$ angular momentum quantum number
$L α L α$ x rays created when an electron falls into an $n=2n=2$ shell
$L e L e$ electron total family number
$L μ L μ$ muon family total number
$L τ L τ$ tau family total number
$L f L f$ heat of fusion
$L f and L v L f and L v$ latent heat coefficients
$L orb L orb$ orbital angular momentum
$L s L s$ heat of sublimation
$L v L v$ heat of vaporization
$L z L z$ z - component of the angular momentum
$M M$ angular magnification
$M M$ mutual inductance
$m m$ indicates metastable state
$m m$ magnification
$m m$ mass
$m m$ mass of an object as measured by a person at rest relative to the object
$m m$ meter (a fundamental SI unit of length)
$m m$ order of interference
$m m$ overall magnification (product of the individual magnifications)
$m A X m A X$ atomic mass of a nuclide
$MA MA$ mechanical advantage
$m e m e$ magnification of the eyepiece
$m e m e$ mass of the electron
$m ℓ m ℓ$ angular momentum projection quantum number
$m n m n$ mass of a neutron
$m o m o$ magnification of the objective lens
$mol mol$ mole
$m p m p$ mass of a proton
$m s m s$ spin projection quantum number
$N N$ magnitude of the normal force
$N N$ newton
$N N$ normal force
$N N$ number of neutrons
$n n$ index of refraction
$n n$ number of free charges per unit volume
$N A N A$ Avogadro's number
$N r N r$ Reynolds number
$N ⋅ m N ⋅ m$ newton-meter (work-energy unit)
$N ⋅ m N ⋅ m$ newtons times meters (SI unit of torque)
$OE OE$ other energy
$P P$ power
$P P$ power of a lens
$P P$ pressure
$p p$ momentum
$p p$ momentum magnitude
$p p$ relativistic momentum
$p tot p tot$ total momentum
$p tot ' p tot '$ total momentum some time later
$P abs P abs$ absolute pressure
$P atm P atm$ atmospheric pressure
$P atm P atm$ standard atmospheric pressure
$PE PE$ potential energy
$PE el PE el$ elastic potential energy
$PE elec PE elec$ electric potential energy
$PE s PE s$ potential energy of a spring
$P g P g$ gauge pressure
$P in P in$ power consumption or input
$P out P out$ useful power output going into useful work or a desired, form of energy
$Q Q$ latent heat
$Q Q$ net heat transferred into a system
$Q Q$ flow rate—volume per unit time flowing past a point
$+ Q + Q$ positive charge
$− Q − Q$ negative charge
$q q$ electron charge
$q p q p$ charge of a proton
$q q$ test charge
$QF QF$ quality factor
$R R$ activity, the rate of decay
$R R$ radius of curvature of a spherical mirror
$R R$ red quark color
$R ¯ R ¯$ antired (cyan) quark color
$R R$ resistance
$R R$ resultant or total displacement
$R R$ Rydberg constant
$R R$ universal gas constant
$r r$ distance from pivot point to the point where a force is applied
$r r$ internal resistance
$r ⊥ r ⊥$ perpendicular lever arm
$r r$ radius of a nucleus
$r r$ radius of curvature
$r r$ resistivity
$r or rad r or rad$ radiation dose unit
$rem rem$ roentgen equivalent man
$rad rad$ radian
$RBE RBE$ relative biological effectiveness
$RC RC$ resistor and capacitor circuit
$rms rms$ root mean square
$r n r n$ radius of the nth H-atom orbit
$R p R p$ total resistance of a parallel connection
$R s R s$ total resistance of a series connection
$R s R s$ Schwarzschild radius
$S S$ entropy
$S S$ intrinsic spin (intrinsic angular momentum)
$S S$ magnitude of the intrinsic (internal) spin angular momentum
$S S$ shear modulus
$S S$ strangeness quantum number
$s s$ quark flavor strange
$s s$ second (fundamental SI unit of time)
$s s$ spin quantum number
$s s$ total displacement
$sec θ sec θ$ secant
$sin θ sin θ$ sine
$s z s z$ z-component of spin angular momentum
$T T$ period—time to complete one oscillation
$T T$ temperature
$T c T c$ critical temperature—temperature below which a material becomes a superconductor
$T T$ tension
$T T$ tesla (magnetic field strength B)
$t t$ quark flavor top or truth
$t t$ time
$t 1 / 2 t 1 / 2$ half-life—the time in which half of the original nuclei decay
$tan θ tan θ$ tangent
$U U$ internal energy
$u u$ quark flavor up
$u u$ unified atomic mass unit
$u u$ velocity of an object relative to an observer
$u ' u '$ velocity relative to another observer
$V V$ electric potential
$V V$ terminal voltage
$V V$ volt (unit)
$V V$ volume
$v v$ relative velocity between two observers
$v v$ speed of light in a material
$v v$ velocity
$v ¯ v ¯$ average fluid velocity
$V B − V A V B − V A$ change in potential
$v d v d$ drift velocity
$V p V p$ transformer input voltage
$V rms V rms$ rms voltage
$V s V s$ transformer output voltage
$v tot v tot$ total velocity
$v w v w$ propagation speed of sound or other wave
$v w v w$ wave velocity
$W W$ work
$W W$ net work done by a system
$W W$ watt
$w w$ weight
$w fl w fl$ weight of the fluid displaced by an object
$W c W c$ total work done by all conservative forces
$W nc W nc$ total work done by all nonconservative forces
$W out W out$ useful work output
$X X$ amplitude
$X X$ symbol for an element
$A Z X N A Z X N$ notation for a particular nuclide
$x x$ deformation or displacement from equilibrium
$x x$ displacement of a spring from its undeformed position
$x x$ horizontal axis
$X C X C$ capacitive reactance
$X L X L$ inductive reactance
$x rms x rms$ root mean square diffusion distance
$y y$ vertical axis
$Y Y$ elastic modulus or Young's modulus
$Z Z$ atomic number (number of protons in a nucleus)
$Z Z$ impedance
Table D1
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