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### Course: Pre-algebra > Unit 11

Lesson 8: Scientific notation word problems# Scientific notation word problem: speed of light

It is possible to simplify multiplication and division using scientific notation. This can be used to calculate the distance between the sun and the earth, which is 1.5 times 10 to the 11th power meters. This is an incredibly large distance and difficult to visualize. Scientific notation can be used to simplify calculations and understand large numbers. This involves using the commutative property to rearrange the numbers and multiplying the units, and then adding the exponents to simplify the equation. Created by Sal Khan and Monterey Institute for Technology and Education.

## Want to join the conversation?

- When are we actually ever going to need this in the real world(3 votes)
- If you want to be a scientist, you might want to learn this.(22 votes)

- Hello, I'm not from the US and in my country we don't include units in the computation, only the the result's unit when giving the answer.

Do you always include them in computation? Thanks in advance to whoever answers.(9 votes)- Yes, you do. I'm not from the US, either.(9 votes)

- Is that THE ACTUAL RATE for the SPEED OF LIGHT?(7 votes)
- Yes, that is the actual speed of light in a vacuum. The speed of light is very close to this value in air.

Have a blessed, wonderful day!(9 votes)

- So what about when you are dividing in scientific notation, how do you know which number goes on top? I have 9 x 10^-5 and 3 x 10^-6. Do i put the one with the highest exponent on top or the biggest number. 9 x 10^-5 would go on top right? thanks(6 votes)
- It depends on what the situation or problem is. It is completely legal within the laws of mathematics to do a/b or b/a, but they yield different quotients. If the problem asks you divide
**9*10^-5**, then the*by*3*10^-6**9*10^-5**would be on top (or, it would be the numerator). Consequently, if the problem asks you to divide**3*10^-6 by 9*10^-5**,**3*10^-6**would be on top.

Correct me if I am wrong or if this answer is confusing.(9 votes)

- I don't wanna be a scientist(7 votes)
- Please choose a career that suits you, something that you like to do! If you don't want to be a scientist, you don't have to be one! :)(1 vote)

- At2:24how do the seconds cancel out?(6 votes)
- It cancels out because when it was m/s and s it cross cancel or cross reduce which is when u take the 2 numbers/variables diagonal from each other and reduce them but in this instance it is the same so they take each other out(2 votes)

- Sal using the sketch app has inspired me to use it when ever I am doing math.

"Always work out your problems on paper or online that is how you will learn and fully understand."

-PIadactyl(6 votes) - Anyone else getting Star Wars vibes when talking about the speed of light? or am i the only one please let me know lol.(5 votes)
- I don't understand this video at all. He needs to
*explain*this stuff better.(5 votes)- i think its answered well(1 vote)

- Where do you you use this in Life or what job(4 votes)
- You could use scientific notation to measure distances as an Astronomer, doses as a Pharmacist, or just use it to calculate large numbers like an accountant.(4 votes)

## Video transcript

The speed of light is 3
times 10 to the eighth meters per second. So as you can tell,
light is very fast, 3 times 10 to the eighth
meters per second. If it takes 5 times 10 to the
second power seconds for light to travel from the
sun to the earth-- let's think about
that a little bit. 5 times 10 to the second,
that's 500 seconds. You have 60 seconds in
a minute, so 8 minutes would be 480 seconds. So 500 seconds would be
about 8 minutes, 20 seconds. It takes 8 minutes,
20 seconds for light to travel from the
sun to the earth. What is the distance, in meters,
between the sun and the earth? They're giving us a rate. They're giving us a speed. They're giving us a time. And they want to
find a distance. This goes straight back
to the standard distance is equal to rate times time. So they give us the rate. The rate is 3 times 10 to
the eighth meters per second. That right there is the rate. They give us the time. The time is 5 times 10
to the second seconds. I'll just use that with a S. How many meters? So what is the distance? And so we can just move these
around from the commutative and the associative
properties of multiplication. And actually, you can
multiply the units. That's called
dimensional analysis. When you multiply the units,
you kind of treat them like variables. You should get the right
dimensions for distance. So let's just rearrange
these numbers. This is equal to 3
times 5-- I'm just commuting and reassociating
these numbers and this product, because we're just multiplying
everything-- 3 times 5 times 10 to the eighth times
10 to the second. And then we're going to
have meters per second times seconds. And if you treated
these like variables, these seconds would cancel out
with that seconds right there, and you would just be left with
the unit meters, which is good, because we want a
distance in just meters. How does this simplify? This gives us 3 times 5 is 15. 15 times 10 to the
eighth times 10 squared. We have the same base. We're taking the product,
so we can add the exponents. This is going to be 10 to
the 8 plus 2 power, or 10 to the 10th power. Now you might be tempted
to say that we're done, that we have this in
scientific notation. But remember, in
scientific notation this number here has
to be greater than or equal to 1 and less than 10. This clearly is
not less than 10. So how do we rewrite this? We can write 15 as 1.5. This clearly is greater
than 1 and less than 10. And to get from 1.5 to 15,
you have to multiply by 10. One way to think about
it is 15 is 15.0, and so you have a decimal here. If we're moving the decimal
one to the left to make it 1.5, that's essentially
dividing by 10. Moving the decimal to the left
means you're dividing by 10. If we don't want to change
the value of the number, we need to divide by 10
and then multiply by 10. So this and that
are the same number. Now 15 is 1.5 times
10, and then we have to multiply that
times 10 to the 10th power, this right over here. 10 is really just 10
to the first power. So we can just
add the exponents. Same base, taking the product. This is equal to 1.5 times
10 to the 1 plus 10 power, or 10 to the 11th power. And we are done. This is a huge distance. It's very hard to visualize. But anyway, hopefully
you enjoyed that.