There are a large number of methods to measure mass, and it can be difficult to understand the terminology and statistics that go with them. This article covers some of the basic concepts involved in accurate mass measurement.
It is important to note that measuring mass does not always involve determining the weight of an object. For example, you can find the mass of an object by observing how it accelerates when force is applied.
What is Mass?
Mass is a property of matter and determines the strength of an object’s gravitational pull. It is also the measure of an object’s inertia, its resistance to change in acceleration when a net force is applied.
It is important to note that mass and weight are not the same thing. It takes more effort to move a bag of bricks than a bag of feathers because the bricks have more mass. The concept of mass underwent radical revisions after the introduction of Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
The official definition of mass is now the kilogram, one of the seven base units that make up the International System of Units. Up until 2019, the kilogram was a physical object, a very specific cylinder of metals that was used as a standard. Now, the kilogram is a mathematical concept defined by physics equations. However, the two concepts are still closely related. Mass is a scalar quantity, while weight is a vector quantity that has both magnitude (a quantifiable value) and direction (down towards the center of Earth or any other gravity well). They can be the same for objects in space, but they can never be zero, as would happen if there were no gravitational attraction between them.
How is Mass Measured?
Objects have mass, which is an inherent property of matter. This property makes an object resistant to change in its motion unless acted upon by some force. This property is known as inertia.
Mass is measured using balances, which compare the weight of an unknown object with a set of reference masses. This is a great way to introduce kids to the concept of weight. This is also a great way to get kids interested in science.
The measurement unit for mass is the kilogram (kg). A kilogram of pure water has a specific gravimetric constant, so the mass of any solid can be determined by measuring the density of that material and using this constant as a correction factor.
Unlike weight, which changes depending on the size and location of an object, mass does not change. Your body’s mass is the same when you are curled up on a sofa or stretching as high as you can.
What Lab Equipment Is Used to Measure Mass?
The most common piece of lab equipment used to measure mass is the analytical balance or scale. These highly precise instruments are utilized in every scientific laboratory to accurately measure the weight of a wide variety of substances to sub-milligram levels of accuracy.
There are a number of different types of analytical balances and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many modern analytical balances have electronic sensors and can be extremely sensitive. Some even have a draft shield to prevent air currents from interfering with the measurements being taken. When using an analytical balance, the weighing pan should be protected by a weigh boat or a piece of weighing paper to keep it clean and free from chemically reacted substances.
Pipets are also used to add and remove liquids from the weighing container. These are very delicate pieces of equipment and should be handled with care. In addition to the pipet, a pipette calibration balance can be used to calibrate the pipets before taking mass measurements.
What is the Metric System?
The metric system, or Systeme International d’Unites, is used all over the world to measure time, length, mass and temperature. It’s based on the idea that units get bigger or smaller by powers of 10. That means that a meter is 100 times longer than a centimeter, and a kilogram is 1,000 times heavier than a gram.
This logical relationship between sizes also applies to measurements of volume and area. For example, a cubic metre is a cube of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm. One litre of water weighs 1 kg.
This makes sense to scientists because it allows all measurement systems to correlate and work with each other. It’s why all scientists use the metric system today. Changing over to another measuring system wouldn’t be easy for people, vehicles and road signs! Plus, it would be really confusing for kids.