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Concept# Metric system

Summary

The metric system is a system of measurement that succeeded the decimalised system based on the metre, which had been introduced in France in the 1790s. The historical development of these systems culminated in the definition of the International System of Units (SI) in the mid-20th century, under the oversight of an international standards body. Adopting the metric system is known as metrication.
The historical evolution of metric systems has resulted in the recognition of several principles. A set of independent dimensions of nature is selected, in terms of which all natural quantities can be expressed, called base quantities. For each of these dimensions, a representative quantity is defined as a base unit of measure. The definition of base units has increasingly been realised in terms of fundamental natural phenomena, in preference to copies of physical artefacts. A unit derived from the base units is used for expressing quantities of dimensions that can be derived from the base dimensions of the system—e.g., the square metre is the derived unit for area, which is derived from length. These derived units are coherent, which means that they involve only products of powers of the base units, without any further factors. For any given quantity whose unit has a name and symbol, an extended set of smaller and larger units is defined that are related by factors of powers of ten. The unit of time should be the second; the unit of length should be either the metre or a decimal multiple of it; and the unit of mass should be the gram or a decimal multiple of it.
Metric systems have evolved since the 1790s, as science and technology have evolved, in providing a single universal measuring system. Before and in addition to the SI, metric systems include: the MKS system of units and the MKSA systems, which are the direct forerunners of the SI; the centimetre–gram–second (CGS) system and its subtypes, the CGS electrostatic (cgs-esu) system, the CGS electromagnetic (cgs-emu) system, and their still-popular blend, the Gaussian system; the metre–tonne–second (MTS) system; and the gravitational metric systems, which can be based on either the metre or the centimetre, and either the gram, gram-force, kilogram or kilogram-force.

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Unit of measurement

A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude of a quantity, defined and adopted by convention or by law, that is used as a standard for measurement of the same kind of quantity. Any other quantity of that kind can be expressed as a multiple of the unit of measurement. For example, a length is a physical quantity. The metre (symbol m) is a unit of length that represents a definite predetermined length. For instance, when referencing "10 metres" (or 10 m), what is actually meant is 10 times the definite predetermined length called "metre".

Metric prefix

A metric prefix is a unit prefix that precedes a basic unit of measure to indicate a multiple or submultiple of the unit. All metric prefixes used today are decadic. Each prefix has a unique symbol that is prepended to any unit symbol. The prefix kilo-, for example, may be added to gram to indicate multiplication by one thousand: one kilogram is equal to one thousand grams. The prefix milli-, likewise, may be added to metre to indicate division by one thousand; one millimetre is equal to one thousandth of a metre.

SI derived unit

SI derived units are units of measurement derived from the seven SI base unit specified by the International System of Units (SI). They can be expressed as a product (or ratio) of one or more of the base units, possibly scaled by an appropriate power of exponentiation (see: Buckingham π theorem). Some are dimensionless, as when the units cancel out in ratios of like quantities.

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