11. Wendy Torrance Padgett, A Logically Acceptable Definition of Mass Using Elastic Forces

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Volume 5: Pages 75-81, 1992

A Logically Acceptable Definition of Mass Using Elastic Forces

Wendy Torrance Padgett 1

1California State Polytechnic University, Pomona California 91768 U.S.A.

A logically acceptable operational definition of mass is given. The source of circular logic in one existing definition is identified and removed. Much of the essay consists of a display of familiar experiments, their analysis, resulting conclusions, and ensuing definitions, with particular care taken not to drop back into circular reasoning. The circularity can be removed for those forces whose exertion produces a measurable effect back on the body exerting the force if this effect is proportional to the force. This condition is satisfied by forces obeying Hooke's rule. Elastic forces therefore appear to play a privileged role in the definition of mass. The resulting definition of mass is an extrapolation along a graph of the inverse of the slope of the accelerationvslength line as a function of the number of identical masses accelerated by an elastic body. One familiar definition of mass is a special case of this definition.

Keywords: definition of mass, operational definition of mass, removing circularity from the definition of mass, privileged role of elastic forces in the definition of mass, choice of standard for mass definition, classical mass

Received: August 2, 1990; Published Online: December 15, 2008