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November 5th, 2006

What's that m thingy?

originally posted to physics with brief comments

I've bumped into a few articles and posts that have again led to that nasty question: What's that m thingy? (aka. mass?)

I'm approaching this as a science teacher and some writers for The Physics Teacher1 are comfortable with the generalization 'matter has mass' (m ≡ ρV and other spatial dimensions) or the traditional inertial definition (m ≡ F / a and similar ones with momentum) but others suggest classrooms should move to a relativistic definition (m ≡ E / c2 and similar ones with KE and PE) early on and relate this back to rest mass.

Which is the best definition?

1articles like "Mass and Energy: The Low-Energy Limit" by Bauman, and "There is Really No Good Definition of Mass" by Hecht.