Does a weighing scale measure mass or weight of a body?

Asked by  | 26th Feb, 2009, 12:42: PM

Expert Answer:

Gravitational mass is the mass of an object measured using the effect of a gravitational field on the object.

The concept of gravitational mass rests on Newton's law of gravitation. Let us suppose we have two objects A and B, separated by a distance |rAB|. The law of gravitation states that if A and B have gravitational masses MA and MB respectively, then each object exerts a gravitational force on the other, of magnitude

where G is the universal gravitational constant. The above statement may be reformulated in the following way: if g is the acceleration of a reference mass at a given location in a gravitational field, then the gravitational force on an object with gravitational mass M is

This is the basis by which masses are determined by weighing. In simple bathroom scales, for example, the force f is proportional to the displacement of the spring beneath the weighing pan, and the scales are calibrated to take g into account, allowing the mass M to be read off. Note that a balance (see the subheading within Weighing scale) as used in the laboratory or the health club measures gravitational mass; only the spring scale measures weight.

Answered by  | 26th Feb, 2009, 11:12: PM

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