Mass is a measure of the amount of matter in an object and remains constant regardless of its location. At the same time, weight is the force exerted on an object due to gravity and varies with the strength of gravity, making it dependent on the object’s location.

## Key Takeaways

- Mass is a fundamental property of matter that measures the amount of substance in an object, a remaining constant regardless of the object’s location.
- Weight is the force exerted on an object due to gravity, varying based on its mass and the gravitational force at its location.
- The key difference between mass and weight is that mass is an intrinsic property of an object and remains constant, while weight is a force that depends on both mass and the local gravitational force.

**Mass vs Weight**

The difference between Mass and Weight is that Mass is a Scalar quantity defined as the amount of matter present in a physical body. Weight is a Vector quantity that is defined as a force exerted on a physical body by gravity with which it is attracted towards the center of the Earth.

## Comparison Table

Feature | Mass | Weight |
---|---|---|

Definition | Amount of matter in an object, independent of its location | Force exerted on an object due to gravity |

Measurement | Kilograms (kg), grams (g) | Newtons (N), pounds (lb) |

Change with location | Remains constant | Varies depending on the strength of gravity |

Affected by gravity | Yes, gravity creates the force we experience as weight | Yes, weight is the result of gravity acting on mass |

Relationship | Weight is proportional to mass, but the constant of proportionality (g) depends on gravity | W = m * g (where W is weight, m is mass, and g is acceleration due to gravity) |

Applications | Determining the amount of matter in an object, calculating forces in physics, understanding planetary systems | Measuring the force exerted on an object due to gravity, determining safe load limits, understanding everyday experiences like falling objects |

## What is Mass?

In physics, mass is a fundamental property of matter that quantifies the amount of substance in an object. It is a scalar quantity, meaning it only has magnitude and no direction. The concept of mass plays a crucial role in classical mechanics, where it is a key parameter in Newton’s laws of motion. Mass is also a central component in Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, where it is linked to energy through the famous equation E=mc^2.

**Types of Mass**

There are different types of mass, including:

**Rest Mass:**The mass of an object when it is not in motion relative to an observer.**Relativistic Mass:**The mass of an object in motion, as described by the theory of relativity. It increases with velocity.

**Units of Measurement**

The SI unit for mass is the kilogram (kg). Other common units include grams (g) and metric tons. The mass of an object can be measured using various techniques, such as balances and scales, and it is a fundamental parameter in experimental physics.

**Inertia and Gravitational Interaction**

Mass is closely associated with inertia, the resistance of an object to changes in its state of motion. Objects with more mass have greater inertia, requiring more force to change their velocity. As described by Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation, mass is also a key factor in the gravitational interaction between objects. The force of gravity is directly proportional to the product of the masses of two objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.

**Conservation of Mass**

In classical mechanics, mass is considered a conserved quantity. This means that in an isolated system, the total mass remains constant over time, regardless of physical or chemical processes occurring within the system. However, in relativistic physics, mass and energy are interconnected, and the conservation of mass-energy supersedes the conservation of mass alone.

## What is Weight?

Weight is a fundamental concept in physics and engineering, representing the force exerted on an object due to gravity. It measures the gravitational pull acting on an object’s mass, commonly expressed in units such as newtons or pounds. The weight of an object is directly proportional to its mass, but it varies with the strength of the gravitational field in which the object is located. On Earth, where the gravitational acceleration is relatively constant, weight is used interchangeably with mass in everyday language.

### Mathematical Relationship

The relationship between weight (W), mass (m), and gravitational acceleration (g) is defined by Newton’s second law of motion: *W*=*mg*, where *W* is the weight, *m* is the mass of the object, and *g* is the gravitational acceleration. This equation signifies that the weight of an object is the product of its mass and the acceleration due to gravity.

### Gravitational Variation

Recognizing that weight varies depending on the object’s location within the universe is essential. For instance, an object will weigh less on the Moon than it does on Earth due to the Moon’s weaker gravitational pull. However, the mass of the object remains constant regardless of its location. This distinction is crucial when considering weight in different celestial bodies or during space exploration.

### Measurement Units

Weight is measured using different units based on the system of measurement. In the International System of Units (SI), weight is measured in newtons (N), where 1 N is equivalent to the force required to accelerate a 1-kilogram mass at a rate of 1 meter per second squared. In the imperial system, weight is expressed in pounds, with 1 pound approximately equal to 4.448 newtons.

**Main Differences Between Mass and Weight**

**Definition:****Mass:**Mass measures the amount of matter in an object. It is an intrinsic property and remains constant regardless of the object’s location in the universe.**Weight:**Weight is the force exerted on an object due to gravity. It depends on the object’s mass and the local acceleration due to gravity.

**Units:****Mass:**Mass is measured in kilograms (kg) or grams (g) in the metric system, and in pounds (lb) or ounces (oz) in the imperial system.**Weight:**Weight is measured in newtons (N) in the metric system and pounds (lb) in the imperial system.

**Invariance:****Mass:**Mass remains constant regardless of the object’s location in the universe. An object’s mass on Earth is the same as its mass on the Moon or in deep space.**Weight:**Weight varies with location due to changes in gravitational acceleration. An object will weigh less on the Moon than on Earth, but its mass remains the same.

**Formula:****Mass:**Mass = Weight / Gravity (where gravity is a constant)**Weight:**Weight = Mass × Gravity

**Measurement:****Mass:**Mass is measured using a balance or a scale.**Weight:**Weight is measured using a spring scale or other devices that account for the gravitational force acting on the object.

**Dependence on Location:****Mass:**Independent of location; the mass of an object is the same everywhere.**Weight:**Depends on the local gravitational field strength. An object will weigh less on a planet with lower gravity and more on a planet with higher gravity.

**References**

- https://www.chemicool.com/definition/mass.html
- https://sciencing.com/calculate-weight-object-8172507.html

Last Updated : 16 December, 2023

Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.

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