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What Is the Difference Between Mass and Weight?

Published October 17, 2021

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between mass and weight? It's a common question, so we'll answer it right now. Mass is equal to an object's density multiplied by its volume. Weight is the force exerted on an object by gravity. The difference can be confusing because when you measure mass, it doesn't take into account the pull of gravity.

What is Mass?

Mass is a measure of an object's inertia or its resistance to being moved by a force. The mass of an object is measured by applying force to it and seeing how much acceleration is produced. Mass can also be defined as the measure of an object's resistance to changes in velocity, i.e., its inertia (which keeps it moving at a certain speed).

Mass is a measure of an object's inertia or its resistance to being moved by a force. This means that it takes more effort (force) to move something with greater mass, but less work will be done on something with greater mass as well.

What is Weight?

Weight is the gravitational pull on something with mass due to gravity. It can be thought about how much an object would weigh under standard conditions (or in another location). Weight is basically what gravity does to pull on an object with mass; regardless of the mass, gravity will pull on any object with a force that can be measured. It is dependent upon both the mass and gravitational field strength. In other words, it's how hard Earth pulls on an object because of its mass (the amount of matter contained in an object). The difference between these two measurements impacts everything from flight calculations to rocket science!

Weight is the gravitational pull on something with mass due to gravity. Weight will remain constant regardless of where an object is located in a static gravitational field, but it can change if there's movement or acceleration caused by a net force (e.g., you jump out of a plane).

Differences between Mass & Weight

Gravitational Field Strength Difference

The difference between mass & weight depends on the gravitational field strength, location of the object, and whether it's being measured or not at a given moment. Gravity will remain constant no matter where you are located, but it does change depending upon your location's gravitational field strength. The absolute mass of an object is not dependent on gravity & will remain constant but the weight of an object is heavily influenced by gravity.

Quantitative difference

Mass is a scalar quantity and weight is a vector quantity. This means that you can't just weigh something with scales to know its mass; it requires the use of vectors (i.e., forces) as well as some math!

Difference of measuring units

The unit of mass is a gram or kilogram while weight is measured in Newtons. Furthermore, scaling your measurements for location differences doesn't work well when talking about the mass because it remains consistent no matter what whereas this won't be true for weight since its value would have changed depending upon Earth's gravitational field strength at any given moment.

When we talk about weight, we're referring to the gravitational force on an object with mass due to gravity. Weight will remain constant regardless of where you are located; but it can change if there's movement or acceleration caused by a net force (e.g., jumping off a tall building). On the other hand, mass is measured in kilograms - which means that it calculates how much matter exists in something!

Comparison Chart: Mass Vs Weight

ParametersMassWeight
Measured inGms or KgsNewtons
QuantityScalarVector
SymbolmW
General Formulam=ρVW=mg
Always remains constantYesNo
Can be zeroNoYes
Dependent on locationNoYes
Dependent on gravityNoYes

Similarities between Mass & Weight

The biggest similarity is the fact that both Mass & Weight can be measured & quantified. In other words, they both have defined values that can be measured! Furthermore, each of them has a calculation which is their product. So the mass multiplied by the acceleration due to gravity will produce weight while multiplying an object's gravitational field strength with its mass will yield its "true" or inertial mass - regardless if it's on Earth or in space!

Both mass & weight depend on the amount of matter present in the object. For instance, the gravitational force on an object with increased mass is greater than one with less mass. The same holds true for weight; the gravitational pull caused by Earth's gravity will be stronger if you are located in a place where there's more gravity (i.e., closer to Earth).

FAQs

Are mass & weight interchangeable?

The most important difference between mass & weight is the fact that they are not interchangeable measurements. Even though they are used interchangeably in day-to-day conversations. While their calculations can be used in conjunction with one another, they remain separate concepts that describe the amount of matter contained within an object and how hard gravity will pull on it due to its gravitational field strength at any given moment respectively.

Do scales show mass or weight?

Scales show weight & not mass & it isn't possible to calculate mass by using a weighing scale.

How heavy is a ship on Earth vs Mars?

This question cannot be answered with just one simple sentence! It depends upon how much the ship weighs and what planet it's on. In this case, the overall weight of the ship will be lighter on Mars than on Earth.

How heavy is a ship in space?

This question cannot be answered with just one simple sentence either! It depends upon how much the ship weighs and what planet it's orbiting around at any given moment since its mass stays the same regardless of location, but its weight does not.

Conclusion

Weight measures the gravitational force on something with mass due to gravity. Whereas Mass calculates inertia or resistance to acceleration. Both measurements are important when discussing physics concepts such as flight trajectories or rocket science.

References

Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
All Posts Written By Nicolas Seignette

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