The Greek letters in mathematics and physics

Greek letters in mathematics and physics

The Greek letters in mathematics and physics

Greek letters in mathematics and physics

We use it very often and sometimes, we don’t even realize it. We are referring to the Greek alphabet and its history rich letters! This is a subject that is very dear to us, and which we approach whenever we have the chance, as you can see on the blog as well.

We are going to be talking to you about these letters today as well, but from a different perspective, namely that of the exact sciences. Let’s find out how Greek letters are used in mathematics and physics!

How was the Greek alphabet formed?

First of all, we must go back a little (more than a little) in time and discover together how the Greek alphabet came into being. It is the only way we can ascertain its importance and further talk about the use of Greek letters in physics.

Thousands of years ago, the first form of the Greek alphabet was taking shape. Where were these miracles happening? In Greece, of course! It is in close connection with the secret islands, the melodious Greek language, the traditional songs and dances. The Greek alphabet is part of the Greek charm.

Before we get to the complete form of these letters, we must say that the Greek alphabet was strongly influenced by the Phoenician one. But the latter alphabet had an oral form and only consonants in its composition. Of course, there were also special vowels, but they were represented in the form of consonants as well.

The Greek alphabet incorporated many of the sounds of the Phoenician one, but has many unique letters as well. By adding the vowels, the Greeks created the first complete form of the alphabet, the one that has both vowels and consonants and is truly phonetic.

Why are Greek letters used in mathematics and physics?

Before we talk about the Greek symbols in mathematics, we must ask ourselves how these letters ended up being used in exact sciences.

Mathematics is hard, and the numerous numbers only confirm it. To all of those, Greek letters are added as well, which are not used to intimidate us, but on the contrary, to help us. Most of the time, as you will see below, they shorten many kilometric and constant formulae with…interesting names.

As you also learned in history, Greek was a very important language and had enjoyed recognition ever since it appeared. For over 4000 years, it has been spoken in the entire world, and for over 3000 years, the Greek language has been written as well. Thus, Greek is in the midst of scientific discoveries and it is no wonder that people like Aristotle, Archimedes and Pythagoras used it in their creations.

Even today, Greek letters continue to be used in physics and mathematics. Who are we to contradict the great Greeks of the antiquity?

Greek symbols used in mathematics and physics

Greek letters in mathematics and physics

Α, α (alpha) – in physics, it represents alpha particles  

  • The representation of angles
  • Reference angle, direction angle (axis)
  • The absorption factor
  • The temperature coefficient of resistance, but also the coefficient of thermal dilation and diffusion

Β, β (beta) – in physics, it represents a beta particle or ray

  • It designates angles
  • Flux density
  • The phase and wavelength constant
  • Used in the case of ordinal numbers (for example: the two roots of a quadratic equation are noted as α and β)

Γ, γ (gamma) – the representation of electric conductivity

  • The Gruneisen parameter
  • Gamma radiation (nuclear physics)
  • Surface energy
  • The Lorentz factor in the theory of relativity
  • Specific weight
  • The Gamma carbon
  • The Gamma function

Δ, δ (delta) – the difference between any types of measurement

  • The representation of angles
  • The damping factor
  • Decrementing and incrementing
  • The polynomial equation discriminant
  • A triangle’s area
  • The symmetric difference between two sets
  • The matrix determinant

Ε, ε (epsilon) – a material’s deformation

  • Capacity
  • Dielectric current
  • Electron energy
  • The base of a natural logarithm

Ζ, ζ (zeta) – coefficients

  • Coordinates
  • Impedance

Η, η (eta) – chemical potential

  • Dielectric susceptibility
  • Intrinsic distance ratio

Θ, θ (theta) – angle representation

  • The rotation angle
  • Thermal resistance
  • The transit angle

Κ, κ (kappa) – the symbol of Einstein’s gravitational constant

  • The coupling and susceptibility coefficient
  • The dielectric constant
  • Thermal diffusivity
  • Thermal and electric conductivity 

Λ, λ (lambda) – wavelength

  • Charge density
  • Photosensitivity
  • Linear density
  • Longitude

Μ, μ (mu) – in measurement terms, it signifies the prefix micro

  • The amplification factor
  • Magnetic permeability
  • Microns

Π, π (pi) – the number Pi – 3,141159…

  • in geometry, it also represents the ratio between the circumference and the diameter of a circle, which is always equal to Pi, regardless of the circle’s dimension

Ω, ω (omega) – the Omega constant – 0,56714…

  • The solid angle
  • Cube root of unity
  • The set of natural numbers

These are only the most well known Greek letters. Each symbol of the Greek alphabet represents something in mathematics or in physics. If you do not know all of the letters of this alphabet, you can find them here.

Thus, the importance of the Greek alphabet in the exact sciences is indisputable! And if you reached the end of this article, I congratulate you! It means you are a lover of mathematics and physics … or of the Greek language! You are also welcome to join our online classes, where we will learn everything about the Greek language. Both lovers of numbers and lovers of letters will find a place among the lovers of Greek!

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