## Mass (Physics)

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# MASS

The mass of a body is its inertia or resistance to change of motion. More precisely, it is a property of the body that determines the body's acceleration under the influence of a given force. Mass can therefore be measured either by the amount of force necessary to impart to the body a given motion in a given time or by the acceleration produced by a given force.

The absolute metric unit of mass is the gram, which is the mass of a body whose velocity increases by one centimeter per second each second if acted upon by a force of one dyne. Other common units are the kilogram (1,000 grams) and the pound (453.592 grams). For velocities that are small as compared with the speed of light, the mass of a body is a constant, characteristic of the body and independent of its locationin contrast to weight, which varies with the body's place on Earth or in the universe.

Although fundamental to science and, together with length and time, the basis of all measurements in physics, the concept of mass was unambiguously defined only at the end of the nineteenth century. However, its rudimentary sources, systematically employed long before by Isaac Newton and to some extent already by Johannes Kepler, can be traced back to early Neoplatonic ideas concerning the inactivity of matter as opposed to the spontaneity of mind. The ancient metaphysical antithesis of matter and spirit served as a prototype of the physical contrast of mass and force.

## Concept of Inertial Mass

Antiquity, and Greek science in particular, had no conception of inertial mass. Even the idea of quantity of matter (quantitas materiae ), the antecedent of inertial or dynamic mass, was foreign to the conceptual scheme of Aristotelian natural philosophy. Paradoxically, it was Neoplatonism and its admixtures of Judeo-Christian doctrines, with their emphasis on the spiritual and immaterial nature of reality, that laid the foundations for the inertial conception of mass, which later became the basic notion of materialistic or substantial philosophy. To accentuate the immaterial, sublime source of all force and life in the intellect or God, Neoplatonism degraded matter to impotence and endowed it with inertia in the sense of an absolute absence of spontaneous activity. For Plotinus, Proclus, Philo, Ibn Gabirol, and the Platonic patristic authors, matter was something base, inert, shapeless and "plump," attributes that reappear in Kepler's characterization of matter as that which is too "plump and clumsy to move itself from one place to another."

The idea of a quantitative determination of matter different from, and ontologically prior to, spatial extension originated in scholastic philosophy in connection with the problem of the transubstantiation. The question of how accidents of condensation or rarefaction (volume changes) can persist in the consecrated hostia of the holy bread and wine of the Eucharist whereas the substances of the bread and the wine change into the Body and the Blood of Christ led Aegidius Romanus, a disciple of Thomas Aquinas, to the formulation of his theory of duplex quantitas. According to this theory matter is determined by two quantities; it is "so and so much" (tanta et tanta ) and "occupies such and such a volume" (et occupat tantum et tantum locum ), the former determination, the quantitas materiae, having ontological priority over bulk. Aegidius's early conception of mass as quantity of matter, expounded in his Theoremata de Corpore Christi (1276), was soon renounced and had little influence on the subsequent development of the concept of mass. It was primarily Kepler who ascribed to matter an inherent propensity for inertia in his search for a dynamical explanation of the newly discovered elliptical orbits of planetary motion; in need of a concept expressing the opposition intrinsic in matter to motory forces, Kepler formulated the inertial concept of mass. In his Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae (1618) he declared that "inertia or opposition to motion is a characteristic of matter; it is stronger the greater the quantity of matter in a given volume."

A different approach to the same idea arose from the study of terrestrial gravitation. As soon as gravity was regarded no longer as a factor residing in the heavy body itself, as Aristotle taught, but as an interaction between an active principle, extraneous to the gravitating body, and a passive principle, inherent in matter, as Alfonso Borelli and Giovanni Baliani (author of De Motu Gravium, 1638) contended, the notion of inertial mass became a necessity for a dynamical explanation of free fall and other gravitational phenomena. Furthermore, Christian Huygens's investigations of centrifugal forces (De Vi Centrifuga, 1659; published in Leiden, 1703) made it clear that a quantitative determination of such forces is possible only if with each body is associated a certain characteristic property proportional to, but conceptually different from, the body's weight. Finally, the systematic study of impact phenomena, carried out by John Wallis, Sir Christopher Wren, and Huygens, enforced the introduction of inertial mass. With Newton's foundations of dynamics (Principia, 1687) these four categories of apparently disparate phenomena (planetary motion, free fall, centrifugal force, and impact phenomena) found their logical unification, through his consistent employment of the notion of inertial mass. Newton's explicit definition of this concept, however, as "the measure of quantity of matter, arising from its density and bulk conjointly" was still unsatisfactory from both the logical and the methodological points of view. It was probably the influence of Kepler or of Robert Boyle and his famous experiments on the compressibility of air that made Newton choose the notion of density as a primary concept in his peculiar formulation of the definition of mass, a formulation that was severely criticized in modern times, especially by Ernst Mach and Paul Volkmann.

## Leibniz and Kant

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's original conception of mass (1669), in contrast to Newton's, defined it as that property which endows primary matter with spatial extension and antitypy, or impenetrability. In his later writings, especially in his doctrine of monads, Leibniz associated mass with secondary matter and saw in it a property of a collection of substances (monads) resulting from their being a collection. Finally, recognizing the insufficiency of purely geometric conceptions to account for the physical behavior of interacting bodies, Leibniz departed from the Cartesian approach and accepted the dynamic, or inertial, conception of mass. The trend of Leibniz's ideas was brought to its final consequences by Immanuel Kant, with his rejection of the Newtonian vis inertiae, the dynamic opposition against impressed force. Refuting its legitimacy on the ground that "only motion, but not rest, can oppose motion," Kant postulated the law of inertia as corresponding to the category of causality ("every change of the state of motion has an external cause") and consequently defined mass as the amount of the mobile (die Menge des Beweglichen ) in a given volume, measured by the quantity of motion (Die metaphysischen Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, 1786).

## Definition of Mass

Under the influence of the Kantian formulation, often incompletely understood, and primarily owing to the fact that in spite of the universal use of the concept in science as well as in philosophy no clear-cut definition of mass was available, most authors defined mass as quantity of matter without specifying how to measure it. Toward the middle of the nineteenth century, with the rise of modern foundational research and the critical study of the principles of mechanics, the logical deficiency of such definitions became obvious. It was primarily Ernst Mach, preceded by Barré de Saint-Venant and Jules Andrade, who insisted on the necessity of a clear operational definition of mass. In an essay, "Über die Definition der Masse" (1867; published in 1868 in Carl's Repertorium der Experimentalphysik, Vol. 4, pp. 355359), and in the Science of Mechanics (Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwicklung, historisch-kritisch dargestellt, Leipzig, 1883; translated by T. J. McCormack, La Salle, IL, 1942), Mach defined the ratio of the masses of two bodies that interact with each other but are otherwise unaffected by all other bodies in the universe as the inverse ratio of their respective accelerations (m 1/m 2 = a 2/a 1), thereby converting Newton's third law of action and reaction to a definition of mass. If a particular body is chosen as the standard unit of mass, the mass of any other body can be unambiguously determined by simple physical operations. The practical method of comparing masses by weighing is, of course, operationally still simpler but logically more complicated, since the notion of weight presupposes that of mass. Although Mach's definition is not quite unobjectionable, it has gained great popularity and is generally adopted in modern texts in science.

## Inertial and Gravitational Mass

In addition to its inertial mass, every physical body possesses gravitational mass, which determines, in its active aspect, the strength of the gravitational field produced by the body and, in its passive aspect, the amount by which the body is affected by the gravitational field produced by other bodies. According to Newton's law of universal gravitation, the force of attraction is proportional to the inertial masses of both the attracting and the attracted bodies. The resulting proportionality of inertial and gravitational masses of one and the same body, experimentally confirmed by Newton, Friedrich Bessel, Roland von Eötvös, and others, remained in classical physics a purely empirical and accidental feature, whereas the strict proportionality between the active and the passive gravitational masses is a straightforward consequence of Newton's third law of action and reaction or, alternatively, of the very definition of inertial mass if the postulated interaction is of gravitational nature. In general relativity, however, the so-called principle of equivalence, which maintains the unrestricted equivalence between uniformly accelerated reference systems and homogeneous gravitational fields, implies the fundamental identity between inertial and passive gravitational masses. In addition, it can be shown that on the basis of general relativity the active gravitational mass of a body or dynamical system equals its inertial mass, so that in relativistic physics, in contrast to Newtonian physics, the identity of all three kinds of masses is a necessary consequence of its fundamental assumptions.

## Mass and Energy

Whereas general relativity led to an important unification of the concept of mass, special relativity already, with Albert Einstein's paper Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon Its Energy Content? (1905; reprinted in The Principle of Relativity, New York, 1923), led to a vast generalization of the concept by showing the equivalence of mass and energy insofar as a body emitting radiative energy of an amount E loses mass to an amount of E/c 2, where c is the velocity of light. Subsequent research, especially in connection with energy transformations in nuclear physics, supported the general validity of the formula E = mc 2, according to which mass and energy are interconvertible and one gram of mass yields 9×1020 ergs of energy. It also became obvious that Antoine Lavoisier's law of the conservation of mass (1789) and Robert Mayer's (or Hermann Helmholtz's) law of the conservation of energy were only approximately correct and that it was the sum total of mass and energy that was conserved in any physicochemical process.

## Influence of the Electromagnetic Concept

The way to these far-reaching conclusions of relativity had been prepared to some extent already by the introduction of the electromagnetic concept of mass at the end of the nineteenth century (by J. J. Thomson, Oliver Heaviside, and Max Abraham). It seemed possible on the basis of James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory to account for the inertial behavior of moving charged particles in terms of induction effects of purely electromagnetic nature. Walter Kaufmann's experiments (1902) on the deflection of electrons by simultaneous electric and magnetic fields and his determination of the slightly variable inertial mass of the electron seemed at the time to support the hypothesis that the mass of the electron, and ultimately the mass of every elementary particle, is of purely electromagnetic nature. Although such eminent theoreticians as H. A. Lorentz, Wilhelm Wien, and Henri Poincaré accepted these ideas, according to which the whole universe of physics is but an interplay of convection currents and their radiation, with physical reality stripped of all material substantiality, the electromagnetic conception of mass had to make way for the relativistic concept as outlined above. Certain aspects of the electromagnetic conception of mass did survive, however, and reappeared in modern field theoriesin particular the fundamental tenet that matter does not do what it does because it is what it is, but it is what it is because it does what it does.

## Bibliography

Bainbridge, K. T. "The Equivalence of Mass and Energy." Physical Review 44 (1933): 123.

Comstock, D. F. "The Relation of Mass to Energy." Philosophical Magazine 15 (1908): 121.

Jammer, Max. Concepts of Mass in Classical and Modern Physics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961; Mineola, NY: Dover, 1997.

Lampa, A. "Eine Ableitung des Massenbegriffs." Lotos 59 (1911): 303312.

Mach, Ernst. Die Geschichte und die Wurzel des Satzes von der Erhaltung der Arbeit. Prague, 1872.

Pendse, C. G. "On Mass and Force in Newtonian Mechanics." Philosophical Magazine 29 (1940): 477484.

Whittaker, E. T. "On Gauss' Theorem and the Concept of Mass in General Relativity." Proceedings of the Royal Society, A, 149 (1935): 384395.

M. Jammer (1967)

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# Mass

Resources

The mass of an object can generally be thought of as the quantity of matter it possesses. A rock, for example, has a certain massa fixed, unchanging quantity of matter. If you were to take that rock along with you on a trip to the moon, it would have the same quantity of matter (the same mass) that it had on Earth, but its weightthe force it exerted when sitting in the palm of your handwould be less. The rocks weight on Earth is determined by the pull that Earths gravity exerted on the rocks mass. On the moon, its mass is the same but the pull of gravity is less, so its weight is less (about a sixth of what it would be on Earths surface).

Defining the mass of an object as the quantity of matter it possesses is not an exact scientific definition. A better one can be found in Newtons second law of motion. If a constant force is applied to an object on a frictionless, horizontal surface, the object acceleratesits velocity increases uniformly with time. If a force twice as large is applied to the same object, its acceleration doubles as well. The objects acceleration is proportional to the force applied to it. We might write: F α a where F is the force applied to the object and a is the acceleration of the object while the force acts. The symbol α means that the two quantities, force and acceleration, are proportional; that is, if the force doubles the acceleration doubles.

Additional experiments show that force and acceleration are always proportional for any object; however, the same force applied to a baseball and a bowling ball will provide the bowling ball with a much smaller acceleration than the baseball. To convert the proportionality F α a to an equation requires a proportionality constant so that we may write proportionality constant x a = f.

If the proportionality constant is to reflect the difference between the baseball and the bowling ball, we might write proportionality constant = f(F, a), or m = f(F, a).

Here, m is defined as the inertial mass of the object. It shows that a bowling ball requires a much bigger force than a baseball to produce the same acceleration.

Mass then can be defined as a ratio of force to acceleration. We define one kilogram to be an inertial mass that accelerates at one meter per second per second when a force of one newton (1 N) is applied to it. If the same force (one newton) is applied to a two kilogram mass, its acceleration is only 0.5 meter per second per second.

If two objects acquire the same acceleration when the same force is applied to them, they have the same inertial mass. It makes no difference whether one is made of lead and the other of aluminum, their inertial masses are identical.

It is a common practice to measure mass on an equal arm balance. Two masses that balance are said to have the same gravitational mass because the gravitational pull on each of them is the same. Measuring inertial and gravitational masses are very different procedures. Inertial masses can be measured anywhere and are totally independent of gravity. Gravitational masses can be determined only in a gravitational field and there is no acceleration. are the two kinds of masses related? Experiments have shown to within

one part in ten billion, that two objects with the same gravitational mass have the same inertial mass.

Since Albert Einstein announced his theory of relativity, we have known that the mass of an object is not given simply by the amount of matter it contains the number of elementary particles that make it up. Einstein showed that mass and energy are interchangeable, and that adding energy to a system increases its mass. The system gravitates more and requires more energy to accelerate, for example. A wound-up spring clock literally weights (very slightly) more than a wound-down clock. Objects in motion gain mass; those accelerated close to the velocity of light (which cannot be exceeded, in a vacuum, by any object) may gain a great deal of mass. Indeed, as the speed of light is approached, the amount of mass gained by an accelerated object increases without limit.

## Resources

### BOOKS

Rindler, Wolfgang. Relativity: Special, General, and Cosmological. New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2006.

Serway, Raymond A. and Jerry S. Faughn. College Physics. vol. 1. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole, 2005.

Touger, Jerold. Introductory Physics: Building Understanding. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

Robert Gardner

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Mass. Owing to the importance the RC Mass holds in the minds of worshippers and the opportunities it offers for mus. participation it has exercised a large influence upon the development of mus. High Mass is sung, Low Mass is spoken. The Proper of the Mass (i.e. the parts which vary from season to season and day to day) has naturally usually been left to its traditional plainsong treatment. The 5 passages that are frequently set for ch., or for ch. and soloists, are: (a) Kyrie (Lord have mercy), (b) Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory be to God on high), (c) Credo (I believe), (d) Sanctus, with Benedictus properly a part of it, but in practice often separated (Holy, Holy … Blessed …), (e) Agnus Dei (O Lamb of God). These are, properly, the congregational element in the Ordinary, or Common of the Mass, i.e. the invariable part. Innumerable mus. settings have been provided by hundreds of composers of all European nations. The earliest polyphonic setting was probably that by Machaut in 14th cent. In the 15th cent. Du Fay and others introduced secular tunes as a cantus firmus, e.g. the folk song L'Homme armé. A high point was reached at the end of the 16th cent., when the unacc. choral contrapuntal style of comp. reached its apogee (Palestrina in It., Byrd in Eng., Victoria in Sp., etc.). In the 17th and 18th cents. the development of solo singing and increased understanding of the principles of effective orch. acc. led to great changes in the style of mus. treatment of the Mass, and the settings of the late 18th-cent. and early 19th-cent. composers ( Haydn, Mozart, Weber, Schubert, etc.), however musically effective, have not the devotional quality of the settings of the late 16th and early 17th cents. The practice had grown up of treating the 5 passages above mentioned as the opportunity for providing an extended work in oratorio style, two outstanding examples of this being the Mass in B minor of J. S. Bach (1724–49) and the Mass in D of Beethoven (1819–22). Many impressive settings have been comp. since Beethoven, e.g. by Bruckner, and in the 20th cent. by Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, Rubbra, and many others.

In large-scale settings the above-mentioned 5 passages tended to become subdivided. The great setting by Bach is as follows: (a) Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy), Christe eleison (Christ, have mercy), Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy); (b) Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory be to God on high), Laudamus te (We praise Thee), Gratias agimus tibi (We give Thee thanks), Domine Deus (Lord God), Qui tollis peccata mundi (Who takest away the sins of the world), Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris (Who sittest at the right hand of the Father), Quoniam tu solus sanctus (For Thou only art holy), Cum Sancto Spiritu (With the Holy Spirit); (c) Credo in unum Deum (I believe in one God), Patrem omnipotentem (Father almighty), Et in unum Dominum (And in one Lord), Et incarnatus est (And was incarnate), Crucifixus (Crucified), Et resurrexit (And rose again), Et in Spiritum Sanctum (And (I believe) in the Holy Spirit), Confiteor unum baptisma (I confess one baptism); (d) Sanctus (Holy), Hosanna in excelsis (Hosanna in the highest), Benedictus qui venit (Blessed is he that cometh); (e) Agnus Dei (O Lamb of God), Dona nobis pacem (Give us peace). See also Missa and Requiem.

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# Mass

One common method of defining mass is to say that it is the quantity of matter an object possesses. For example, a small rock has a fixed, unchanging quantity of matter. If you were to take that rock to the Moon, to Mars, or to any other part of the universe, it would have the same quantity of matterthe same massas it has on Earth.

Mass is sometimes confused with weight. Weight is defined as the gravitational attraction on an object by some body, such as Earth or the Moon. The rock described above would have a greater weight on Earth than on the Moon because Earth exerts a greater gravitational attraction on bodies than does the Moon.

## Mass and the second law

A more precise definition of mass can be obtained from Newton's second law of motion. According to that lawand assuming that the object in question is free to move horizontally without frictionif a constant force is applied to an object, that object will gain speed. For example, if you hit a ball with a hammer (the constant force), the ball goes from a zero velocity (when it is at rest) to some speed as it rolls across the ground. Mathematically, the second law can be written as F = m · a, where F is the force used to move an object, m is the mass of the object, and a is the acceleration, or increase in speed of the object.

Newton's second law says that the amount of speed gained by an object when struck by a force depends on the quantity of matter in the object. Suppose that you strike a bowling ball and a golf ball with the same force. The golf ball gains a great deal more speed than does the bowling ball because it takes a greater force to get the bowling ball moving than it does to get the golf ball moving.

This fact provides another way of defining mass. Mass is the increase in speed of an object provided by some given force. Or, one can solve the equation above for m, the mass of an object, to get m = F ÷ a. A kilogram, for example, can be defined as the mass that increases its speed at the rate of one meter per second when it is struck by a force of one newton.

## Units of mass

In the SI system of measurement (the International System of Units), the fundamental unit of mass is the kilogram. A smaller unit, the gram, is also used widely in many measurements. In the English system, the unit of mass is the slug. A slug is equal to 14.6 kilograms.

Scientists and nonscientists alike commonly convert measurements between kilogram and pounds, not kilograms and slugs. Technically, though, a kilogram/pound conversion is not correct since kilogram is a measure of mass and pound a measure of weight. However, such measurements and such conversions almost always involve observations made on Earth's surface where there is a constant ratio between mass and weight.

[See also Acceleration; Density; Force; Laws of motion; Matter, states of ]

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# Mass

Newton defined the mass of an object as the quantity of matter it possessed. A small rock, for example, has a mass—a fixed, unchanging quantity of matter. If you were to take that rock along with you on a trip to the moon , it would have the same quantity of matter (the same mass) that it had on Earth . Its weight, however, would be less on the moon. The rock's weight on earth was the pull that the earth's gravity exerted on it. On the moon, its weight, as measured with a spring scale, will be less because the moon does not pull on it as strongly as the earth.

Defining the mass of an object as the quantity of matter it possesses is not a very good scientific definition. A better one can be found in Newton's second law of motion . If a constant force is applied to an object on a frictionless, horizontal surface, the object accelerates—its velocity increases uniformly with time . If a force twice as large is applied to the same object, its acceleration doubles as well. The object's acceleration is proportional to the force applied to it. We might write: Fα a where F is the force applied to the object and a is the acceleration of the object while the force acts. The symbol α means that the two quantities, force and acceleration, are proportional; that is, if the force doubles the acceleration doubles.

Additional experiments show that force and acceleration are always proportional for any object; however, the same force applied to a baseball and a bowling ball will provide the bowling ball with a much smaller acceleration than the baseball. To convert the proportionality Fα a to an equation requires a proportionality constant so that we may write proportionality constant x a = F.

If the proportionality constant is to reflect the difference between the baseball and the bowling ball, we might write proportionality constant = f(F, a), or m = f(F, a).

Here, m is defined as the inertial mass of the object. It shows that a bowling ball requires a much bigger force than a baseball to produce the same acceleration.

Mass then can be defined as a ratio of force to acceleration. We define one kilogram to be an inertial mass that accelerates at one meter per second per second when a force of one newton is applied to it. If the same force (one newton) is applied to a two kilogram mass, its acceleration is only 0.5 meter per second per second.

If two objects acquire the same acceleration when the same force is applied to them, they have the same inertial mass. It makes no difference whether one is made of lead and the other of aluminum , their inertial masses are identical.

It is a common practice to measure mass on an equal arm balance. Two masses that balance are said to have the same gravitational mass because the gravitational pull on each of them is the same. Measuring inertial and gravitational masses are very different procedures. Inertial masses can be measured anywhere and are totally independent of gravity. Gravitational masses can be determined only in a gravitational field and there is no acceleration. Are the two kinds of masses related? Experiments have shown to within one part in ten billion, that two objects with the same gravitational mass have the same inertial mass.

## Resources

### books

Haber-Schaim, et al. PSSC Physics. 7th ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 1991. pp. 45-48.

Rogers, Eric M. Physics for the Inquiring Mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960. pp. 105-134.

Sears, Zemansky, and Young. College Physics. 6th ed. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1985. pp. 59-64.

White, Harvey. Modern College Physics. Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand, 1956. pp. 460-463.

Robert Gardner

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mass / mas/ • n. 1. a coherent, typically large body of matter with no definite shape: a mass of curly hair from here the trees were a dark mass. ∎  a large number of people or objects crowded together: a mass of cyclists. ∎  a large amount of material: a mass of conflicting evidence. ∎  (masses) inf. a large quantity or amount of something: we get masses of homework. ∎  any of the main portions in a painting or drawing that each have some unity in color, lighting, or some other quality: the masterly distribution of masses. 2. (the mass of) the majority of: the great mass of the population had little interest in the project. ∎  (the masses) the ordinary people. 3. Physics the quantity of matter that a body contains, as measured by its acceleration under a given force or by the force exerted on it by a gravitational field. ∎  (in general use) weight. • adj. relating to, done by, or affecting large numbers of people or things: the movie has mass appeal a mass exodus of refugees. • v. assemble or cause to assemble into a mass or as one body: [tr.] both countries began massing troops in the region | [intr.] clouds massed heavily on the horizon. PHRASES: be a mass of be completely covered with: his face was a mass of bruises. in the mass as a whole: her genuine affection for humanity in the mass.DERIVATIVES: mass·less adj.

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mass Measure of the quantity of matter in an object. The standard unit of mass is the kilogram (one kg = 1000 grams). Scientists recognize two types of mass. The gravitational mass of a body is determined by its mutual attraction to another reference body, such as the Earth, as expressed in Newton's law of gravitation. Spring balances and platform balances proved a measure of gravitational mass. The inertial mass of a body is determined by its resistance to a change in state of motion, as expressed in the second law of motion. Inertia balances provide a measure of inertial mass. According to Einstein's principle of equivalence, upon which his general theory of relativity is based, the inertial mass and the gravitational mass of a given body are equivalent. See also weight

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Mass the Christian Eucharist or Holy Communion, especially in the Roman Catholic Church. Mass was also formerly used for the feast day or festival of a specified saint; this usage now survives only as a suffix, as in Candlemas, Christmas, Lammas, and Michaelmas.

Recorded from Old English, the word comes from ecclesiastical Latin missa, from Latin miss- ‘dismissed’, from mittere, perhaps from the last words of the service, ‘Ite, missa est [Go, it is the dismissal]’.

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Mass / mas/ • n. the Christian Eucharist or Holy Communion, esp. in the Roman Catholic Church: we went to Mass the Latin Mass. ∎  a celebration of this: there was a Mass and the whole family was supposed to go. ∎  a musical setting of parts of the liturgy used in the Mass.

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mass Celebration of the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church and among some High Church Anglicans. The Catholic rite comprises the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which includes the Offertory, the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood under the guise of bread and wine. In the late 20th century, the mass underwent a number of changes following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65).