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Scientific Notation in Chemistry

Express very large or very small numbers in a convenient way.

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Scientific Notation Can Be a Lifesavior

Credit: Yale Rosen
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30950973@N03/5414785274/in/photolist-9fuc1N-e5oNjZ-czVFLA-93Df71-93Dfdh-e3j5Xv-e3pKYS-9MsRPF-9MvF53-6Lyb7Z-6QNeZw-bEuFdf-cpacwu-cpadgh-6DpPXX-7BfhUX-bEvp8Y-9wVr12-9hPBcK-9wYqcQ-93Df3U-cpacbu-cnoQxE-93D3Jb-bTqfmz-9nZ2TX-cofHz1-e3pL5f-dv9Hte-a2uhF9-6DtYoY-7XezYf-7Bj6Hy-9McWg9-cnXNof-9dSZ54-9Ma9Fe-dYJ3Az-8DyNUX-8yvAq1-8ysy1T-bqjtr5-a2rpra-c6tAVw-9dnKTc-9dqRWs-cpZ8CS-8DyNXi-9fsSfo-c5RZw1-6QNeVw
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

[Figure1]

What is smaller? 0.0000007 or 0.00000007? Goodness that is a lot of 0s! Luckily scientific notation exists to make your life simpler. Isn't it easier to compare 7 \times 10-7 and 7 \times10-8? That would be very handy when labeling the size of this bacteria above! Scientific notation is a method of expressing numbers in an easier format to read. It is the product of a coefficient and 10 raised to a power.

Creative Applications

  1. When does scientific notation come in handy?
  2. Is 94.1 X 10^6 a number in scientific notation?
  3. Is 4.1 in scientific notation? Why or why not?
  4. Change 10391 into scientific notation.

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