The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Why does an objects mass/weight increase as it gets closer to the speed of ligh?  (Read 2114 times)

Offline Dragon Ice

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
I was looking at some equations and as far as i can see an objects mass/weight cannot change as it speeds up.
Yet we know that it does this.
Could somebody please explain why


 

Offline JP

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3366
  • Thanked: 2 times
    • View Profile
The confusion here is that there are actually two commonly used definitions of mass in relativity.

Relativistic mass follows E=mc2.  This means as the energy of something goes up as it increases in speed, this mass goes up.  This mass is basically a measurement of energy.

Invariant mass follows E2-(pc)2=m2c4.  This mass doesn't change a something speeds up, as it's equal to the mass you would measure if the object were at rest.

It sounds like you're looking at equations of invariant mass, but thinking about relativistic mass. 
 

Offline Dragon Ice

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
The confusion here is that there are actually two commonly used definitions of mass in relativity.

Relativistic mass follows E=mc2.  This means as the energy of something goes up as it increases in speed, this mass goes up.  This mass is basically a measurement of energy.

Invariant mass follows E2-(pc)2=m2c4.  This mass doesn't change a something speeds up, as it's equal to the mass you would measure if the object were at rest.

It sounds like you're looking at equations of invariant mass, but thinking about relativistic mass. 

i was always taught that the E in E=MC^2 was the energy in the object itself
(i.e. in 1 gram of antimatter when combined with normal matter)
so that would explain why i was confused

thanks JP
 

Offline yor_on

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 11993
  • Thanked: 4 times
  • (Ah, yes:) *a table is always good to hide under*
    • View Profile
And I think you were taught right :)

Take a object speeding towards us near light speed. When it hit Earth we will feel it real bad as compared to the same object just getting dragged down by Earths gravity.

Imagine now that you decide to measure this 'relativistic energy'. You take your spacecraft and accelerate out and then  set your speed to the object coming at earth. Where is its extra 'energy'? That 'relative energy/mass' is a relation between earth/the object but also a relation between you landing/the object. In one case the 'energy' or momentum or relative mass is enormous, in the other negligible, simultaneously.

And I expect this is the reason why physics mostly use 'mass' as in the 'invariant kind' nowadays. The invariant mass is, at least is expected to be, the exact same in all 'frames of reference' so counting on that you then have to look at the momentum relative whatever you measure it against to see the interaction. But, in a way they seem interchangeable to me.
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
i was always taught that the E in E=MC^2 was the energy in the object itself
E it's the energy if the object is not moving with respect to your frame of reference. If it's moving, E is not the energy.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum


 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums