14. Wendy T. Padgett, Problems with the Current Definitions of Mass

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Volume 3: Pages 178-182, 1990

Problems with the Current Definitions of Mass

Wendy T. Padgett 1

1La Canada High School, La Canada, California 91011 U.S.A.

This paper documents the lack of agreement among physicists on the definition of mass. None of the present attempts at a definition are free of logical flaws. To reach consensus on the definition of mass, it may be necessary to abandon the attempt to define mass and force in separate, sequential experiments, one after the other, and instead, define these two quantities simultaneously in a set of concurrent experiments. It is suggested that the concept of “inertial mass” be viewed from the perspective of fundamental forces and corresponding terminology be used. It is demonstrated that the mass measured by gravitational scales is the same as mass measured by accelerating an object with contact forces; it is inherently impossible to measure mass with a scale using gravitational forces alone. The attempt to distinguish between inertial and gravitational mass is meaningless in the present state of confusion about the definition of these terms.

Keywords: definition of mass, survey of the definition of mass, inertial mass, electromagnetic mass, gravitational mass, gravitational scales

Received: June 27, 1989; Published Online: December 15, 2008