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Concept# Gaussian units

Summary

Gaussian units constitute a metric system of physical units. This system is the most common of the several electromagnetic unit systems based on cgs (centimetre–gram–second) units. It is also called the Gaussian unit system, Gaussian-cgs units, or often just cgs units. The term "cgs units" is ambiguous and therefore to be avoided if possible: there are several variants of cgs with conflicting definitions of electromagnetic quantities and units.
SI units predominate in most fields, and continue to increase in popularity at the expense of Gaussian units. Alternative unit systems also exist. Conversions between quantities in Gaussian and SI units are direct unit conversions, because the quantities themselves are defined differently in each system. This means that the equations expressing physical laws of electromagnetism—such as Maxwell's—will change depending on the system of units employed. As an example, quantities that are dimensionless in one system may have dimension in the other.
Alternative CGS units in electromagnetism
The Gaussian unit system is just one of several electromagnetic unit systems within CGS. Others include "electrostatic units", "electromagnetic units", and Heaviside–Lorentz units.
Some other unit systems are called "natural units", a category that includes Hartree atomic units, Planck units, and others.
The International System of Units (SI), with the associated International System of Quantities (ISQ), is by far the most common system of units today. In engineering and practical areas, SI is nearly universal and has been for decades. In technical, scientific literature (such as theoretical physics and astronomy), Gaussian units were predominant until recent decades, but are now getting progressively less so. The 8th SI Brochure acknowledges that the CGS-Gaussian unit system has advantages in classical and relativistic electrodynamics, but the 9th SI Brochure makes no mention of CGS systems.
Natural units may be used in more theoretical and abstract fields of physics, particularly particle physics and string theory.

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The statvolt is a unit of voltage and electrical potential used in the CGS-ESU and gaussian systems of units. In terms of its relation to the SI units, one statvolt corresponds to exactly c_cgs e-8volt, i.e. to 299.792458 volts. The statvolt is also defined in the CGS system as 1 erg / statcoulomb. It is a useful unit for electromagnetism because, in a vacuum, an electric field of one statvolt per centimetre has the same energy density as a magnetic field of one gauss.

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