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# Weight

In science and engineering, the weight of an object is related to the amount of force acting on the object, either due to gravity or to a reaction force that holds it in place.The word weight denotes a quantity of the same nature as a force: the weight of a body is the product of its mass and the acceleration due to gravity.'The weight W of a body is equal to the magnitude Fg of the gravitational force on the body.'Definition In science and engineering, the weight of an object is related to the amount of force acting on the object, either due to gravity or to a reaction force that holds it in place. Some standard textbooks define weight as a vector quantity, the gravitational force acting on the object. Others define weight as a scalar quantity, the magnitude of the gravitational force. Others define it as the magnitude of the reaction force exerted on a body by mechanisms that keep it in place: the weight is the quantity that is measured by, for example, a spring scale. Thus, in a state of free fall, the weight would be zero. In this sense of weight, terrestrial objects can be weightless: ignoring air resistance, the famous apple falling from the tree, on its way to meet the ground near Isaac Newton, would be weightless. The unit of measurement for weight is that of force, which in the International System of Units (SI) is the newton. For example, an object with a mass of one kilogram has a weight of about 9.8 newtons on the surface of the Earth, and about one-sixth as much on the Moon. Although weight and mass are scientifically distinct quantities, the terms are often confused with each other in everyday use (i.e. comparing and converting force weight in pounds to mass in kilograms and vice versa). Further complications in elucidating the various concepts of weight have to do with the theory of relativity according to which gravity is modelled as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime. In the teaching community, a considerable debate has existed for over half a century on how to define weight for their students. The current situation is that a multiple set of concepts co-exist and find use in their various contexts. Discussion of the concepts of heaviness (weight) and lightness (levity) date back to the ancient Greek philosophers. These were typically viewed as inherent properties of objects. Plato described weight as the natural tendency of objects to seek their kin. To Aristotle, weight and levity represented the tendency to restore the natural order of the basic elements: air, earth, fire and water. He ascribed absolute weight to earth and absolute levity to fire. Archimedes saw weight as a quality opposed to buoyancy, with the conflict between the two determining if an object sinks or floats. The first operational definition of weight was given by Euclid, who defined weight as: 'weight is the heaviness or lightness of one thing, compared to another, as measured by a balance.' Operational balances (rather than definitions) had, however, been around much longer. According to Aristotle, weight was the direct cause of the falling motion of an object, the speed of the falling object was supposed to be directly proportionate to the weight of the object. As medieval scholars discovered that in practice the speed of a falling object increased with time, this prompted a change to the concept of weight to maintain this cause effect relationship. Weight was split into a 'still weight' or pondus, which remained constant, and the actual gravity or gravitas, which changed as the object fell. The concept of gravitas was eventually replaced by Jean Buridan's impetus, a precursor to momentum. The rise of the Copernican view of the world led to the resurgence of the Platonic idea that like objects attract but in the context of heavenly bodies. In the 17th century, Galileo made significant advances in the concept of weight. He proposed a way to measure the difference between the weight of a moving object and an object at rest. Ultimately, he concluded weight was proportionate to the amount of matter of an object, and not the speed of motion as supposed by the Aristotelean view of physics. The introduction of Newton's laws of motion and the development of Newton's law of universal gravitation led to considerable further development of the concept of weight. Weight became fundamentally separate from mass. Mass was identified as a fundamental property of objects connected to their inertia, while weight became identified with the force of gravity on an object and therefore dependent on the context of the object. In particular, Newton considered weight to be relative to another object causing the gravitational pull, e.g. the weight of the Earth towards the Sun. Newton considered time and space to be absolute. This allowed him to consider concepts as true position and true velocity. Newton also recognized that weight as measured by the action of weighing was affected by environmental factors such as buoyancy. He considered this a false weight induced by imperfect measurement conditions, for which he introduced the term apparent weight as compared to the true weight defined by gravity.

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