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Definitions of the Units Radian, Neper, Bel, and Decibel



I M. Mills, Barry Taylor, A J. Thor


The definition of coherent derived units in the International System of Units (SI) is reviewed, and the important role of the equations defining physical quantities is emphasized in obtaining coherent derived units. In the case of the dimensionless quantity plane angle, the choice between alternative definitions is considered, leading to a corresponding choice between alternative definitions of the coherent derived unit - the radian, degree or revolution. In this case, the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) has chosen to adopt the definition that leads to the radian as the coherent derived unit. In the case of the quantity logarithmic decay (or gain), also sometimes called decrement, and sometimes called level, a similar choice of defining equation exists, leading to a corresponding choice between the coherent derived units -the neper or the bel. In this case, the CGPM has not yet made a choice. We argue that for the quantity logarithmic decay the most logical choice of defining equations is linked to that of the radian, and is that which leads to the neper as the corresponding coherent derived unit. This should not prevent us from using the bel and decibel as units of logarithmic decay. However, it is important part of the SI to establish in a formal sense the equations defining physical quantities, and the corresponding coherent derived units.
No. 4


bel, decibel, degree, logarithmic quantities, neper, radian, revolution, SI


Mills, I. , Taylor, B. and Thor, A. (2001), Definitions of the Units Radian, Neper, Bel, and Decibel, Metrologia (Accessed April 1, 2023)
Created July 31, 2001, Updated October 12, 2021