Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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Extensive vs. intensive

An intensive variable is one that can be defined locally within a system; its magnitude does not depend on whether we select a system or a part of a system. An extensive variable is one that is defined for the system as a whole; its magnitude does depend on how much of the system we choose to select. Which of the following variables are intensive and which are extensive? Explain your reasoning in each case.

  1. density;
  2. pressure;
  3. volume;
  4. temperature;
  5. mass;
  6. internal energy;
  7. number of moles; and
  8. molecular weight.

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Page last modified October 30, 2002: H&T06