Mass and Gravity
Name: Nicole S.
I am trying to explain to my 6th graders the idea of the
difference between mass and weight and how gravity pulls on all objects
about the same at 9.8N. They are completely confused as to the
relationship of newtons to lbs. Do you have a clear way of explaining to
them the idea that the gravitational pull is the same on all of us, but
that our mass is different therefore, our weight is different? They
think the pull of gravity should change if our mass changes. I am
Could you say that the "pull" of gravity DOES change if our mass changes
-- pull is another way of saying "force", and the force goes up as the
mass goes up. But the pull per unit mass, that is, weight for each unit
mass, or in units, newtons per kilogram, THAT is constant all over the
earth. g = F/m, g is constant.
And of course if you go to another planet, then g will change. This can
be explained by saying that g is what comes of one mass attracting
another, and if you change the first mass (earth, to say the moon) then
you change the acceleration, the g.
Do not mix pounds with newtons. The English unit of mass is a pound-mass,
or something called a slug, and dates back to medieval times, and is
seldom used. In metric system it seems to be just the opposite, the
colloquial speak is to talk of kilos, but you do not really "weigh" 50
kg, and few people on the street use the word "newton". Either way its
sloppy physics and one reason this gets confusing.
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Update: June 2012