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Logarithmic scale

From Academic Kids

Value

A logarithmic scale is a scale of measurement that gives the logarithm of a physical quantity instead of the quantity itself. This is often done if the underlying quantity can take on a huge range of values; the logarithm reduces this to a more manageable range. Some of our senses operate in a logarithmic fashion (doubling the input strength adds a constant to the subjective signal strength), which makes logarithmic scales for these input quantities especially appropriate. In particular our sense of hearing perceives equal ratios of frequencies as equal differences in pitch.

Logarithmic scales are either defined for ratios of the underlying quantity, or one has to agree to measure the quantity in fixed units. Deviating from these units means that the logarithmic measure will change by an additive constant. The base of the logarithm also has to be specified, unless the scale's value is considered to be a dimensional quantity expressed in generic (indefinite-base) logarithmic units.

On most logarithmic scales, small values (or ratios) of the underlying quantity correspond to small (possibly negative) values of the logarithmic measure. Well-known examples of such scales are:

Some logarithmic scales were designed such that large values (or ratios) of the underlying quantity correspond to small values of the logarithmic measure. Examples of such scales are:

Graphic representation

A logarithmic scale is also a graphic scale on one or both sides of a graph where a number x is printed at a distance c·log(x) from the point marked with the number 1. A slide rule has logarithmic scales, and nomograms often employ logarithmic scales. On a logarithmic scale an equal difference in order of magnitude is represented by an equal distance. The geometric mean of two numbers is midway between the numbers.

fr:chelle logarithmique he:סקאלה לוגריתמית nl:Logaritmische schaal ru:Логарифмический масштаб

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