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Physical property

Physical property

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A physical property is any property
Property (philosophy)
In modern philosophy, logic, and mathematics a property is an attribute of an object; a red object is said to have the property of redness. The property may be considered a form of object in its own right, able to possess other properties. A property however differs from individual objects in that...

 that is measurable
Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the metre, second or degree Celsius...

 whose value describes a physical system's
Physical system
In physics, the word system has a technical meaning, namely, it is the portion of the physical universe chosen for analysis. Everything outside the system is known as the environment, which in analysis is ignored except for its effects on the system. The cut between system and the world is a free...

 state. The changes in the physical properties of a system can be used to describe its transformations (or evolutions between its momentary states).

Physical properties can be intensive or extensive
Intensive and extensive properties
In the physical sciences, an intensive property , is a physical property of a system that does not depend on the system size or the amount of material in the system: it is scale invariant.By contrast, an extensive property In the physical sciences, an intensive property (also called a bulk...

. An intensive property does not depend on the size or amount of matter in the object, while an extensive property does. In addition to extensiveness, properties can also be either isotropic
Isotropy is uniformity in all orientations; it is derived from the Greek iso and tropos . Precise definitions depend on the subject area. Exceptions, or inequalities, are frequently indicated by the prefix an, hence anisotropy. Anisotropy is also used to describe situations where properties vary...

 if their values do not depend on the direction of observation or anisotropic
Anisotropy is the property of being directionally dependent, as opposed to isotropy, which implies identical properties in all directions. It can be defined as a difference, when measured along different axes, in a material's physical or mechanical properties An example of anisotropy is the light...

 otherwise. Physical properties are referred to as observable
In physics, particularly in quantum physics, a system observable is a property of the system state that can be determined by some sequence of physical operations. For example, these operations might involve submitting the system to various electromagnetic fields and eventually reading a value off...

s. They are not modal properties
Modal property
A modal property is a property representing possession of the qualities required to do something or get something done. It is a base concept, one of the base concepts mentioned as base types in the WordNet ontology of semantics. It is not a mental property. It is not a physical property....


Often, it is difficult to determine whether a given property is physical or not. Color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

, for example, can be "seen"; however, what we perceive as color is really an interpretation of the reflective properties of a surface. In this sense, many ostensibly physical properties are termed as supervenient
In philosophy, supervenience is a kind of dependency relationship. For example, mental states might depend on physical brain states. This dependency is typically held to obtain between sets of properties. A classic example is that mental states of pain supervene on 'C-fibers firing'...

. A supervenient property is one which is actual (for dependence on the reflective properties of a surface is not simply imagined), but is secondary to some underlying reality. This is similar to the way in which objects are supervenient on atomic structure. A "cup" might have the physical properties of mass, shape, color, temperature, etc., but these properties are supervenient on the underlying atomic structure, which may in turn be supervenient on an underlying quantum structure.

Physical properties are contrasted with chemical properties
Chemical property
A chemical property is any of a material's properties that becomes evident during a chemical reaction; that is, any quality that can be established only by changing a substance's chemical identity...

 which determine the way a material behaves in a chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...


List of properties

The physical properties of an object are traditionally defined by Classical mechanics
Classical mechanics
In physics, classical mechanics is one of the two major sub-fields of mechanics, which is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces...

. The physical properties of an object may include, but are not limited to:

  • absorption
  • albedo
    Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

  • area
    Area is a quantity that expresses the extent of a two-dimensional surface or shape in the plane. Area can be understood as the amount of material with a given thickness that would be necessary to fashion a model of the shape, or the amount of paint necessary to cover the surface with a single coat...

  • brittleness
  • boiling point
    Boiling point
    The boiling point of an element or a substance is the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid equals the environmental pressure surrounding the liquid....

  • capacitance
    In electromagnetism and electronics, capacitance is the ability of a capacitor to store energy in an electric field. Capacitance is also a measure of the amount of electric potential energy stored for a given electric potential. A common form of energy storage device is a parallel-plate capacitor...

  • color
    Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

  • concentration
    In chemistry, concentration is defined as the abundance of a constituent divided by the total volume of a mixture. Four types can be distinguished: mass concentration, molar concentration, number concentration, and volume concentration...

  • density
    The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

  • dielectric
    A dielectric is an electrical insulator that can be polarized by an applied electric field. When a dielectric is placed in an electric field, electric charges do not flow through the material, as in a conductor, but only slightly shift from their average equilibrium positions causing dielectric...

  • ductility
    In materials science, ductility is a solid material's ability to deform under tensile stress; this is often characterized by the material's ability to be stretched into a wire. Malleability, a similar property, is a material's ability to deform under compressive stress; this is often characterized...

  • distribution
    Distribution function
    In molecular kinetic theory in physics, a particle's distribution function is a function of seven variables, f, which gives the number of particles per unit volume in phase space. It is the number of particles per unit volume having approximately the velocity near the place and time...

  • efficacy
    Efficacy is the capacity to produce an effect. It has different specific meanings in different fields. In medicine, it is the ability of an intervention or drug to reproduce a desired effect in expert hands and under ideal circumstances.- Healthcare :...

  • electric charge
    Electric charge
    Electric charge is a physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when near other electrically charged matter. Electric charge comes in two types, called positive and negative. Two positively charged substances, or objects, experience a mutual repulsive force, as do two...

  • electrical conductivity
  • electrical impedance
    Electrical impedance
    Electrical impedance, or simply impedance, is the measure of the opposition that an electrical circuit presents to the passage of a current when a voltage is applied. In quantitative terms, it is the complex ratio of the voltage to the current in an alternating current circuit...

  • electric field
    Electric field
    In physics, an electric field surrounds electrically charged particles and time-varying magnetic fields. The electric field depicts the force exerted on other electrically charged objects by the electrically charged particle the field is surrounding...

  • electric potential
    Electric potential
    In classical electromagnetism, the electric potential at a point within a defined space is equal to the electric potential energy at that location divided by the charge there...

  • emission
  • flexibility
    Flexibility may refer to:* Flexibility , the distance of motion of a joint, which may be increased by stretching* Flexibility , in the field of engineering systems design, designs that can adapt when external changes occur...

  • flow rate
  • fluidity
    Fluidity may refer toIn science*reciprocal of viscosity*Cognitive fluidity*Membrane fluidity*Sexual fluidityOthers*Fluidity *Dark Fluidity – a literature magazine*Empire Fane ship...

  • frequency
    Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

  • inductance
    In electromagnetism and electronics, inductance is the ability of an inductor to store energy in a magnetic field. Inductors generate an opposing voltage proportional to the rate of change in current in a circuit...

  • Intrinsic impedance
  • intensity
    Intensity (physics)
    In physics, intensity is a measure of the energy flux, averaged over the period of the wave. The word "intensity" here is not synonymous with "strength", "amplitude", or "level", as it sometimes is in colloquial speech...

  • irradiance
    Irradiance is the power of electromagnetic radiation per unit area incident on a surface. Radiant emittance or radiant exitance is the power per unit area radiated by a surface. The SI units for all of these quantities are watts per square meter , while the cgs units are ergs per square centimeter...

  • length
    In geometric measurements, length most commonly refers to the longest dimension of an object.In certain contexts, the term "length" is reserved for a certain dimension of an object along which the length is measured. For example it is possible to cut a length of a wire which is shorter than wire...

  • location
    Absolute location
    Absolute location describing the position of an object or place, on the surface of the Earth.- Example :An example would be the longitude and latitude of a place. For instance, the position of Lake Michigan, USA, can be expressed approximately in the WGS84 coordinate system as the location 10.65°N...

  • luminance
    Luminance is a photometric measure of the luminous intensity per unit area of light travelling in a given direction. It describes the amount of light that passes through or is emitted from a particular area, and falls within a given solid angle. The SI unit for luminance is candela per square...

  • luster
  • malleability
  • magnetic field
    Magnetic field
    A magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;...

  • magnetic flux
    Magnetic flux
    Magnetic flux , is a measure of the amount of magnetic B field passing through a given surface . The SI unit of magnetic flux is the weber...

  • mass
    Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

  • melting point
    Melting point
    The melting point of a solid is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at standard atmospheric pressure...

  • moment
    Magnetic moment
    The magnetic moment of a magnet is a quantity that determines the force that the magnet can exert on electric currents and the torque that a magnetic field will exert on it...

  • momentum
    In classical mechanics, linear momentum or translational momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object...

  • permeability
    Permeability (electromagnetism)
    In electromagnetism, permeability is the measure of the ability of a material to support the formation of a magnetic field within itself. In other words, it is the degree of magnetization that a material obtains in response to an applied magnetic field. Magnetic permeability is typically...

  • permittivity
    In electromagnetism, absolute permittivity is the measure of the resistance that is encountered when forming an electric field in a medium. In other words, permittivity is a measure of how an electric field affects, and is affected by, a dielectric medium. The permittivity of a medium describes how...

  • pressure
    Pressure is the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Gauge pressure is the pressure relative to the local atmospheric or ambient pressure.- Definition :...

  • radiance
    Radiance and spectral radiance are radiometric measures that describe the amount of radiation such as light or radiant heat that passes through or is emitted from a particular area, and falls within a given solid angle in a specified direction. They are used to characterize both emission from...

  • solubility
    Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

  • specific heat
  • resistivity
    Electrical resistivity is a measure of how strongly a material opposes the flow of electric current. A low resistivity indicates a material that readily allows the movement of electric charge. The SI unit of electrical resistivity is the ohm metre...

  • reflectivity
    In optics and photometry, reflectivity is the fraction of incident radiation reflected by a surface. In general it must be treated as a directional property that is a function of the reflected direction, the incident direction, and the incident wavelength...

  • spin
    A rotation is a circular movement of an object around a center of rotation. A three-dimensional object rotates always around an imaginary line called a rotation axis. If the axis is within the body, and passes through its center of mass the body is said to rotate upon itself, or spin. A rotation...

  • strength
    Strength of materials
    In materials science, the strength of a material is its ability to withstand an applied stress without failure. The applied stress may be tensile, compressive, or shear. Strength of materials is a subject which deals with loads, deformations and the forces acting on a material. A load applied to a...

  • temperature
    Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

  • tension
  • thermal conductivity
    Thermal conductivity
    In physics, thermal conductivity, k, is the property of a material's ability to conduct heat. It appears primarily in Fourier's Law for heat conduction....

  • velocity
    In physics, velocity is speed in a given direction. Speed describes only how fast an object is moving, whereas velocity gives both the speed and direction of the object's motion. To have a constant velocity, an object must have a constant speed and motion in a constant direction. Constant ...

  • viscosity
    Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

  • volume
    Volume is the quantity of three-dimensional space enclosed by some closed boundary, for example, the space that a substance or shape occupies or contains....

  • wave impedance
    Wave impedance
    The wave impedance of an electromagnetic wave is the ratio of the transverse components of the electric and magnetic fields . For a transverse-electric-magnetic plane wave traveling through a homogeneous medium, the wave impedance is everywhere equal to the intrinsic impedance of the medium...

Distinction from perceptions

Certain perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

s are often described (or even "measured") as if they are intensive or extensive physical properties, but in fact perceptions are fundamentally different from physical properties. For example, the colour of a solution is not a physical property. A solution of potassium permanganate may appear pink, various shades of purple, or black, depending upon the concentration of the solution and the length of the optical path through it. The colour of a given sample as perceived by an observer (i.e., the degree of 'pinkness' or 'purpleness') cannot be measured, only ranked in comparison with other coloured solutions. A given volume of permanganate solution of a given concentration has physical properties related to the colour: the optical absorption spectrum is an extensive property, and the positions of the absorption maxima (which are relatively independent of concentration) are intensive properties. A given absorption spectrum, for a certain observer, will always be perceived as the same colour; but there may be several different absorption spectra which are perceived as the same colour: there is no precise one-to-one correspondence between absorption spectrum and colour even for the same observer.

The confusion between perception and physical properties is increased by the existence of numeric scales for many perceived qualities. However, this is not 'measurement' in the same sense as in physics and chemistry. A numerical value for a perception is, directly or indirectly, the expected response of a group of observers when perceiving the specified physical event.

Examples of perceptions related to an intensive physical property:
  • Temperature
    Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

    : in this case all observers will agree which is the hotter of two objects.
  • Loudness
    Loudness is the quality of a sound that is primarily a psychological correlate of physical strength . More formally, it is defined as "that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds can be ordered on a scale extending from quiet to loud."Loudness, a subjective measure, is often...

     of sound; the related physical property is sound pressure level. Observers may disagree about the relative loudness of sounds with different acoustic
    Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics...

  • Hue
    Hue is one of the main properties of a color, defined technically , as "the degree to which a stimulus can be describedas similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, green, blue, and yellow,"...

     of a solution; the related physical property is the position of the spectral absorption maximum (or maxima).

Examples of perceptions related to an extensive physical property:
  • Color
    Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

     of a solution: The related physical property is the transmission or absorption spectrum
    A spectrum is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum. The word saw its first scientific use within the field of optics to describe the rainbow of colors in visible light when separated using a prism; it has since been applied by...

See also

  • Chemical property
    Chemical property
    A chemical property is any of a material's properties that becomes evident during a chemical reaction; that is, any quality that can be established only by changing a substance's chemical identity...

  • Physical quantity
    Physical quantity
    A physical quantity is a physical property of a phenomenon, body, or substance, that can be quantified by measurement.-Definition of a physical quantity:Formally, the International Vocabulary of Metrology, 3rd edition defines quantity as:...

  • List of materials properties
  • Physical test
    Physical test
    A physical test is a qualitative or quantitative procedure that consists of determination of one or more characteristics of a given product, process or service according to a specified procedure...

  • Test method
    Test method
    A test method is a definitive procedure that produces a test result.A test can be considered as technical operation that consists of determination of one or more characteristics of a given product, process or service according to a specified procedure. Often a test is part of an experiment.The test...

  • elasticity
    Elasticity (physics)
    In physics, elasticity is the physical property of a material that returns to its original shape after the stress that made it deform or distort is removed. The relative amount of deformation is called the strain....

  • hardness
  • heat conductivity

External links