The key difference between mass and matter is that mass is a measurable quantity, while matter is not a measurable quantity.
Mass and matter are two commonly misinterpreted concepts. However, these are highly important concepts having a great value in fields such as physics, cosmology and astrophysics. In this article, we are going to discuss in depth what mass and matter are, their definitions, their similarities and differences.
What is Mass?
Mass is a large body of matter with no definite shape. We can divide the mass into three different types: inertial mass, active gravitational mass, and passive gravitational mass. Experimental data show that all three quantities are the same. Furthermore, matter and energy are two forms of mass.
We can measure mass in units such as kilograms. The common misconception is that weight is measured in kilograms, but we should actually measure it in Newton. The weight is actually the amount of force acting on the mass.
Kinetic energy, momentum, and the amount of acceleration due to a force we apply on a body are all dependent on the mass of the body. Apart from day to day materials, things such as electromagnetic waves also have a mass. In relativity, there are two types of mass we can define: rest mass and relativistic mass.
The mass of an object doesn’t remain constant throughout a movement. The rest mass is the mass we can measure when the object is at rest. The relativistic mass is the measure for a moving object. These two are nearly the same for speeds much less than the speed of light but varies greatly when the speed approaches the speed of light. The rest mass of the electromagnetic waves is zero.
What is Matter?
Matter is a concept going back as far as ancient Greeks. It is a property of all physical objects. It has no proper scientific definition. The first close to real scientific theory of matter was put forward by Leucippus and Democritus around early 400 BC. The Democritus theory says that the matter is not continuous; it is in the form of discrete particles. We can see the non-continuity of matter in incidences such as a solid dissolving.
We can categorize matter according to many criteria. By the physical form, we can categorize it as gas, liquid, solid, and plasma. By detection methods, we can separate it as normal matter and dark matter. Moreover, by the type of the quantity measured, it is in two types, as mass and waves.
In normal sense, there is a common misconception that matter refers to the mass. However, mass can exist in the form of waves too. We call this the wave-particle duality. The total amount of mass existing in the universe is the contribution by both waves and matter combined. Matter and energy are transformable. We can transform energy into matter and vice versa. We can give this relation by the famous equation E = mc2. Thus, this transformation also shows the similarity between matter and energy.
What is the Difference Between Mass and Matter?
Matter is anything that occupies space and has mass while mass is something that represents the amount of matter in a particular space, particle, or object. Therefore, the key difference between mass and matter is that mass is a measurable quantity, while the matter is not. Furthermore, matter is a poorly defined concept, while mass is a scientifically well-developed concept.
Apart from that, matter can be measured using different units of measurement such as mass, volume, etc. but the SI unit for mass is kilogram. So, this is also a notable difference between mass and matter.
Summary – Mass vs Matter
Mass and matter are two commonly misinterpreted concepts. Basically, matter is anything that occupies space and has mass while mass is something that represents the amount of matter in a particular space, particle, or object. The key difference between mass and matter is that mass is a measurable quantity, while matter is not measurable.
1. “Mass.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 Feb. 2018, Available here.
1. “147629” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “States of matter es” By Yelod – Wikimedia Commons * Yelod – Wikipedia (En) *De la traducción: Ortisa – Commnos: File:States of matter En.svg (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia