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In problem #9b for Chapter 8, "The internal energy of a system increased by 982 J when it absorbed 492 J of heat. (a) Was work done by or on the system? (b) How much work was done?", is there a specific reason the answer is in scientific notation, instead of just 490 J? Or is it just a preference in notation?
I believe it's written in scientific notation in order to show how many sig figs there are. In the question, each value has 3 sig figs, but the final answer written as 490 J shows only 2 sig figs. Writing the answer in scientific notation or writing the answer as 490. J will show the correct number of sig figs.
Yes, so long as the correct number of sig figs is used, either way should technically be correct. Scientific notation can just be useful in avoiding having to write out a large number of zeroes and, as already mentioned, in removing ambiguity surrounding the number of sig figs.
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