scalar, quantity or number possessing only sign and magnitude, e.g., the real numbers (see number ), in contrast to vectors and tensors ; scalars obey the rules of elementary algebra. Many physical quantities have scalar values, e.g., length, area, mass, energy, and electric charge. Such quantities as velocity, force, momentum, and spin are vectors and follow different algebraic rules.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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