Questions tagged [mass]

The property of an object that determines how much it responds to a force in Newtonian mechanics, and how much it interacts with gravity in the Newtonian framework. Mass also refers to the intrinsic energy of a particle in particle physics.

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230
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11answers
52k views

Don't heavier objects actually fall faster because they exert their own gravity?

The common understanding is that, setting air resistance aside, all objects dropped to Earth fall at the same rate. This is often demonstrated through the thought experiment of cutting a large object ...
161
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10answers
220k views

If photons have no mass, how can they have momentum?

As an explanation of why a large gravitational field (such as a black hole) can bend light, I have heard that light has momentum. This is given as a solution to the problem of only massive objects ...
131
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28answers
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How can you weigh your own head in an accurate way?

I read some methods but they're not accurate. They use the Archimedes principle and they assume uniform body density which of course is far from true. Others are silly like this one: Take a knife ...
110
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17answers
214k views

How does mass leave the body when you lose weight?

When your body burns calories and you lose weight, obviously mass is leaving your body. In what form does it leave? In other words, what is the physical process by which the body loses weight when ...
76
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7answers
26k views

Which way does the scale tip?

I found the problem described in the attached picture on the internet. In the comment sections there were two opposing solutions. So it made me wonder which of those would be the actual solution. So ...
74
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5answers
12k views

Do the weights of two liquids not add when mixed?

I was given an interesting dilemma today. A co-worker saw me adding a liquid (Diisopropyl ethylamine AKA DIPEA) to a flask filled with another liquid (Tetrahydrofuran AKA THF). I needed to weigh out ...
71
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19answers
28k views

Is weight a scalar or a vector?

My professor insists that weight is a scalar. I sent him an email explaining why it's a vector, I even sent him a source from NASA clearly labeling weight as a vector. Every other source also ...
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6answers
7k views

Are Newton's “laws” of motion laws or definitions of force and mass?

If you consider them as laws, then there must be independent definitions of force and mass but I don't think there's such definitions. If you consider them as definitions, then why are they still ...
68
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8answers
15k views

Why is the $S_{z} =0$ state forbidden for photons?

If photons are spin-1 bosons, then doesn't quantum mechanics imply that the allowed values for the z-component of spin (in units of $\hbar$) are -1, 0, and 1? Why then in practice do we only use the $...
67
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7answers
15k views

Why are protons heavier than electrons?

Our teacher told us that protons are nearly 1800 times heavier than electrons. Is there any known reason as to why this is so? Or is this just an empirical value, one we do not know the reason to?
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6answers
8k views

Massless charged particles

Are there any massless (zero invariant mass) particles carrying electric charge? If not, why not? Do we expect to see any or are they a theoretical impossibility?
57
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6answers
6k views

What keeps mass from turning into energy?

I understand the energy and mass can change back and forth according to Einstein. It is fluid; it can go from one to the other. So, what keeps mass from just turning into energy? Is there some force ...
53
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7answers
9k views

Why is there a controversy on whether mass increases with speed?

Some people say that mass increases with speed, some people say that the mass of an object is independent of its speed. I understand how some (though not many) things in physics are a matter of ...
50
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7answers
45k views

Is a hard drive heavier when it is full?

Browsing Quora, I saw the following question with contradicting answers. For the highest voted answer: The bits are represented by certain orientations of magnetic fields which shouldn't have ...
49
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7answers
4k views

Why do we have an elementary charge but no elementary mass?

Why do we have an elementary charge $e$ in physics but no elementary mass? Is an elementary mass ruled out by experiment or is an elementary mass forbidden by some theoretical reason?
47
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9answers
44k views

How can a photon have no mass and still travel at the speed of light?

I've read a number of the helpful Q&As on photons that mention the mass/mass-less issue. Do I understand correctly that the idea of mass-less (a rest mass of 0) may be just a convention to make ...
46
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4answers
20k views

Does a photon exert a gravitational pull?

I know a photon has zero rest mass, but it does have plenty of energy. Since energy and mass are equivalent does this mean that a photon (or more practically, a light beam) exerts a gravitational pull ...
45
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5answers
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Why is the prospective new kilogram standard a sphere?

I can understand the choice of material, silicon 28, but why is it a sphere rather than (say) a cube? Article here I would have thought that a sphere would have been the hardest shape to machine ...
42
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4answers
27k views

What's the difference between the five masses: inertial mass, gravitational mass, rest mass, invariant mass and relativistic mass?

I have learned in my physics classes about five different types of masses and I am confused about the differences between them. What's the difference between the five masses: inertial mass, ...
41
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2answers
5k views

Why are scientists involved in the Avogadro Project using silicon-28 atoms instead of carbon-12?

My question is, why use silicon-28 atoms to calculate the kilogram when you already have carbon-12 atoms defining the constant? Does the Avogadro Project intend to define the constant by replacing ...
41
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6answers
6k views

Do photons gain mass when they travel through glass?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that photons slow down when travelling through glass. Does this mean they gain mass? Otherwise, what happens to extra kinetic energy? I understand now ...
40
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5answers
6k views

Is mass an observable in Quantum Mechanics?

One of the postulates of QM mechanics is that any observable is described mathematically by a hermitian linear operator. I suppose that an observable means a quantity that can be measured. The mass ...
37
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3answers
9k views

What is the smallest item for which gravity has been recorded or observed?

What is the smallest item for which gravity has been recorded or observed? By this, I mean the smallest object whose gravitational effect upon another object has been detected. (Many thanks to Daniel ...
34
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5answers
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Do massless particles really exist? [duplicate]

I was in doubt, so I went to wikipedia. There it says "the photon has zero rest mass", but on the side description it says the mass is $<1.10^{-18} \:\mathrm{eV}/c^2$. So is the mass of the photon ...
32
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3answers
4k views

Why is spacetime curved by mass but not charge?

It is written everywhere that gravity is curvature of spacetime caused by the mass of the objects or something to the same effect. This raises a question with me: why isn't spacetime curved due to ...
32
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8answers
8k views

Is (rest) mass quantized?

I learned today in class that photons and light are quantized. I also remember that electric charge is quantized as well. I was thinking about these implications, and I was wondering if (rest) mass ...
32
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1answer
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Does the mass of a battery change when charged/discharged?

If so, how much? Is it possible to detect it, or is it beyond any measurement? I'd say there are two possible scenarios (depending on the battery type) and both seem interesting: The battery reacts ...
31
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6answers
5k views

Does the speed of light in vacuum define the universal speed limit?

Is light the thing causing the universal speed limit to be $299\,792\,458\,\mathrm{m/s}$? So the universal speed limit would be different if light travelled faster or slower? Or, is $299\,792\,458\,\...
30
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3answers
4k views

How did Rutherford conclude that most of the mass (as well as the positive charge) was concentrated in the nucleus?

Geiger and Marsden's experiment led Rutherford to believe that the positive charge and most of the mass of the atom was concentrated in a small region. I understand what led him to conclude the way ...
30
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5answers
3k views

Couldn't we always redefine units so that inertial mass and gravitational mass are equal?

It is a known fact that inertial and gravitational masses are the same thing, and therefore are numerically equal. This is not an obvious thing, since there are even experiments trying to find a ...
30
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7answers
6k views

Would there be no time in a universe with only light?

It is sometimes said, that if you stand still (in space), you travel through time at the speed of light. On the other side light never stands still, so it always only travels through space (at the ...
30
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3answers
95k views

How is light affected by gravity?

Light is clearly affected by gravity, just think about a black hole, but light supposedly has no mass and gravity only affects objects with mass. On the other hand, if light does have mass then doesn'...
29
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5answers
4k views

Will 1 gram of matter moving at relativistic speeds completely annihilate a larger quantity of stationary antimatter?

This is a question about the relativistic mass concept which I am having trouble understanding, mainly because of the scenario below. Simple scenario: Suppose 1 gram of matter is accelerated to 99% ...
29
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2answers
2k views

Can the center of charge and center of mass of an electron differ in quantum mechanics?

Traditionally for a free electron, we presume the expectation of its location (place of the center of mass) and the center of charge at the same place. Although this seemed to be reasonable for a ...
29
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4answers
9k views

Why does a large train cause the ground to shake?

I work in a 4 story building that is approx. 150 feet away from a set of train tracks. When a large (40+ car) freight train goes by, the shaking in the building is perceptible. As I've watched the ...
28
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6answers
12k views

How is water heavier than petrol, even though its molecular weight is less than petrol?

Molecular weight of petrol is so much higher than water, but when it comes to physical property, weight, one litre of water weighs more than one litre of petrol. How is it possible?
28
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8answers
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Why is there a size limitation on animals?

Why is there a size limitation on human/animal growth? Assuming the technology exists for man to grow to 200 feet high, it's pretty much a given that the stress on the skeletal structure and joints ...
28
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3answers
5k views

The interpretation of mass in quantum field theories

Consider a free theory with one real scalar field: $$ \mathcal{L}:=-\frac{1}{2}\partial _\mu \phi \partial ^\mu \phi -\frac{1}{2}m^2\phi ^2. $$ We write this positive coefficient in front of $\phi ^2$ ...
27
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13answers
126k views

Why does the (relativistic) mass of an object increase when its speed approaches that of light?

I'm reading Nano: The Essentials by T. Pradeep and I came upon this statement in the section explaining the basics of scanning electron microscopy. However, the equation breaks down when the ...
26
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3answers
13k views

How does the Higgs Boson gain mass itself?

If the Higgs field gives mass to particles, and the Higgs boson itself has mass, does this mean there is some kind of self-interaction? Also, does the Higgs Boson have zero rest mass and so move at ...
25
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6answers
4k views

What kind of force can a rock exert which a motor cannot?

Imagine a dam with two doors. We have two cases: First case: there is a rock heavy enough to stop the doors from opening. Second case: there are are two motors or kind of machines (not sure if it ...
25
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2answers
12k views

What would happen to a teaspoon of neutron star material if released on Earth?

I've read on NASA's page on neutron star that one teaspoonful of that star would weigh over 20 billion tonnes on Earth. If it was somehow possible to bring it to earth would it: Burn and disappear ...
24
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4answers
3k views

Does the universe have a fixed centre of mass?

Does the universe have a fixed centre of mass? If it does, doesn't it necessarily mean that every action of ours has to be balanced by a counteraction somewhere in the universe so as to neutralize the ...
24
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2answers
8k views

How does one measure the mass of a galaxy? And other such large quantities?

Trained as a pure mathematician, I see claims about the mass of a galaxy and other such huge measurements that are arrived at experimentally, and I just have to scratch my head. I know this is a bit ...
23
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4answers
7k views

What's the difference between centre of mass & centre of gravity for massive bodies?

My book says: For most of the small objects, both are same. But for mammoth ones, they are really different ones. And in a gravity-less environment, COG is absent; COM still exists. Ok, what's the ...
23
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10answers
466k views

What is the difference between weight and mass?

My science teacher is always saying the words "weight of an object" and "mass of an object," but then my physics book (that I read on my own) tells me completely different definitions from the way ...
23
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7answers
10k views

Where on Earth does the mass of 1 kg actually produce a 1 kg reading on a digital scale?

Gravity on Earth varies by about 0.1% between poles and equator. If someone was buying/selling something mass critical e.g. gold, where is the standard place on Earth where a 1 kg mass produces a 1 kg ...
23
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2answers
3k views

If a black hole is created from light, can this black hole then move at the speed of light?

Imagine we managed to squeeze light into a very tiny region of space so that the energy concentration at that point becomes a black hole. Can this black hole then move at the speed of light?
23
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3answers
6k views

Can something without mass exert a force?

I am something of a dilettante in physics, so please forgive me if the answer to this question is painfully obvious. The question is simple, can something that theoretically has no mass exert a force. ...
23
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4answers
4k views

Decay of massless particles

We don't normally consider the possibility that massless particles could undergo radioactive decay. There are elementary arguments that make it sound implausible. (A bunch of the following is ...