# Active versus passive mass in classical mechanics

TurtleMeister
The two forces have equal status. You cannot consider one of them to be "cause" and the other to be "effect." You should not take the words "action" and "reaction" in the context of the Third Law as indicating "cause" and "effect". They are simply a commonly-used terminology.

[added] When I teach Newton's Third Law in an introductory course, I avoid using the words "action" and "reaction" except to address confusions such as this.

I like your explanation, and I agree. However, why does it not work for the case of gravity? To be more specific, I'm talking about the mainstream classical justification for the equivalence principle as it applies to active gravitational mass. Let me give an analogy that applies to the OPs question:

Two men with a rope are standing face to face on a frictionless surface (or ice). Regardless of which man pulls on the rope, one, the other, or both, they will always meet at their center of mass. Just as your post describes, the third law does not discriminate between the action and reaction.

However, it does discriminate for the case of gravity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivalence_principle#Active.2C_passive.2C_and_inertial_masses In fact, the equivalence principle depends on the discrimination! In the two body problem, if the gravitational field of M1 disappears, then the third law will be violated (they will not meet at their center of mass). And this is used as the justification for the equivalence of active gravitational mass and passive gravitational mass, even though there is no physical evidence to support it.

Am I missing something?

Staff Emeritus

Am I missing something?
You are missing that the cited wikipedia article is yet another reason to avoid wikipedia.

There is no such thing as active versus passive mass in Newtonian mechanics. There is only mass.

TurtleMeister

You are missing that the cited wikipedia article is yet another reason to avoid wikipedia.

There is no such thing as active versus passive mass in Newtonian mechanics. There is only mass.

Thanks for the response DH. Yes, I realize that wikipedia is not the best source, but it was convenient and the quoted section does agree with other mainstream sources I have encountered, such as:

Concepts Of Mass In Contemporary Physics And Philosophy by Max Jammer:
Just as a violation of the mi = mp equality would be fatal to Einstein's general relativity, a violation of the mp = ma equality would be fatal to Newtonian physics, for it would invalidate Newton's third law of motion.

He then goes on to to give equations that predict a third law violation should there be an inequality between mp and ma.

Staff Emeritus

Emphasis mine:
Concepts Of Mass In Contemporary Physics And Philosophy by Max Jammer:
Exactly. The topic at hand was Newtonian physics, not contemporary physics.

The equivalence principle posits that passive and active mass are one and the same thing, so even in general relativity there is no distinction between the two. The equivalence principle now stands as one of the most precisely tested axioms of physics.

Gold Member
I wouldn't call the equivalence principle an axiom of physics. Postulate maybe, but axiom means to me like a mathematical construct which is true by definition. Maybe it's just personal preference.

In fact, the equivalence principle depends on the discrimination! In the two body problem, if the gravitational field of M1 disappears, then the third law will be violated (they will not meet at their center of mass). And this is used as the justification for the equivalence of active gravitational mass and passive gravitational mass, even though there is no physical evidence to support it.

In Newtonian physics, the third law holds for non-test masses, and says that things interact mutually, as they do when they have the form of Coulomb's law. It's the third law that enforces the equivalence of active and passive charge. It does not enforce that charge is proportional to inertial mass.

One form of EP in Newtonian physics is that two test masses will hit the earth at the same time. This formulation requires that the test masses that don't affect the earth's motion. This observation leads to the formulation that charge (of the gravitational type) is proportional to inertial mass. The EP does not hold for non-test masses.

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TurtleMeister

The equivalence principle posits that passive and active mass are one and the same thing, so even in general relativity there is no distinction between the two.
Well, if they were the same thing then there would be no point in having an equivalence principle. The equivalence principle posits that mp is proportionally equivalent to ma.

The equivalence principle now stands as one of the most precisely tested axioms of physics.
That's not true for ma. It is very poorly tested. Only one laboratory test in the past 45 years.

TurtleMeister
In Newtonian physics, the third law holds for non-test masses, and says that things interact mutually, as they do when they have the form of Coulomb's law. It's the third law that enforces the equivalence of active and passive charge. It does not enforce that charge is proportional to inertial mass.
I agree. But not what I am questioning in my op.

One form of EP in Newtonian physics is that two test masses will hit the earth at the same time. This formulation requires that the test masses that don't affect the earth's motion. This observation leads to the formulation that charge (of the gravitational type) is proportional to inertial mass. The EP does not hold for non-test masses.
I think you're talking about the universality of free fall? I agree also, but not what I am questioning in my op.

I agree. But not what I am questioning in my op.

I think you're talking about the universality of free fall? I agree also, but not what I am questioning in my op.

Can you restate your question then? I didn't understand it. I thought you were saying that the EP requires test masses to have only passive gravitational mass, not active gravitational mass, which is true.

TurtleMeister
Can you restate your question then? I didn't understand it. I thought you were saying that the EP requires test masses to have only passive gravitational mass, not active gravitational mass, which is true.

My question is: What reason do I have to believe the wiki quote in the op when there is no physical evidence that a third law violation would occur when $M^{pass}_1<>M^{act}_1$? In my analogy of the men with a rope in a tug of war, if one man pulls and the other does not, there is not going to be a third law violation. The same can be said for electric charges or any other example you can think of. So why should I believe the third law will be violated in the case of gravity?

My question is: What reason do I have to believe the wiki quote in the op when there is no physical evidence that a third law violation would occur when $M^{pass}_1<>M^{act}_1$? In my analogy of the men with a rope in a tug of war, if one man pulls and the other does not, there is not going to be a third law violation. The same can be said for electric charges or any other example you can think of. So why should I believe the third law will be violated in the case of gravity?

The third law would be violated. The third law says if I pull you, you must pull me. That causes active and passive charge to be the same.

TurtleMeister
The third law would be violated. The third law says if I pull you, you must pull me. That causes active and passive charge to be the same.

Okay, that makes sense. But it was my impression that active gravitational mass refered to the strength of a bodies gravitational field (or charge). If that is true then what does passive gravitational mass refer to? Does a body have two gravitational fields? That doesn't make much sense.

Okay, that makes sense. But it was my impression that active gravitational mass refered to the strength of a bodies gravitational field (or charge). If that is true then what does passive gravitational mass refer to? Does a body have two gravitational fields? That doesn't make much sense.

Let's say it is possible for the sun to pull the earth, but the earth does not pull the sun. This is approximately true since the sun is much more massive. Then the force of the earth on the sun is 0, so the earth has no active gravitational mass. The earth is affected by the sun, so it has passive gravitational mass.

Newton's third law says that this description is not exactly true, and in fact the earth does pull the sun.

Staff Emeritus
I like your explanation, and I agree. However, why does it not work for the case of gravity?
The exact same concept, active mass versus passive mass, applies to charge as well. Both concepts are viewed as "exotic" (aka fringe) physics. In the minds of most physicists, they are not worthy of investigation once a small handful of experiments have been performed (and they have been) to dismiss such concepts.

TurtleMeister
Thanks for your time DH and atyy. This is something that has bugged me for a long time. I'm still not clear on it, but I have to go now. It may be a day or two before I can get back. If you or anyone else have any other thoughts about this I would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

Turtle

DrStupid

The equivalence principle posits that mp is proportionally equivalent to ma.

The equivalence principle posits that gravitational mass is proportionally equivalent to inertial mass. As D H already mentioned Newtonian mechanics does not distinguish between active and passive gravitational mass.

Staff Emeritus

The equivalence principle posits that gravitational mass is proportionally equivalent to inertial mass.
That's exactly right. The equivalence principle does not distinguish between active and passive gravitational mass. It was Bondi who first introduced the concept of three kinds of mass (inertial mass, active gravitational mass, and passive gravitational mass) in Rev. Mod. Phys. 29, 423 (1957).

Just because something is published in a peer reviewed journal doesn't it is accepted. Getting something published is the starting point of a new scientific idea, not the culmination. In this case, the concept of active versus passive gravitational mass is viewed as an exotic, or fringe, idea.

Nonetheless, this idea has been tested, and more than just once. Just to name a few,

L.B.Kreuzer, "Experimental Measurement of Active and Passive Gravitational Mass," Phys. Rev. 169, 1007–1012 (1968);
D.F.Bartlett, D.van Buren, "Equivalence of active and passive gravitational mass using the moon," Phys. Rev. Lett. 57, 21–24 (1986);
D.P.Rubincam, "Mars seasonal polar caps as a test of the equivalence principle," Phys. Rev. D 84, 042001 (2011).

The exact same concept applies to charge as well as mass. It too has been tested; e.g.,

C.Lämmerzahl, A.Macias, H.Müller, "Limits to differences in active and passive charges," Phys. Rev. A 75, 052104 (2007).

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TurtleMeister
Thanks for the info DH. I'm already familiar with the L.B.Kreuzer and D.F.Bartlett, D.van Buren experiments, but I have not read the other two.

D H said:
DrStupid said:
The equivalence principle posits that gravitational mass is proportionally equivalent to inertial mass.
That's exactly right. The equivalence principle does not distinguish between active and passive gravitational mass. It was Bondi who first introduced the concept of three kinds of mass (inertial mass, active gravitational mass, and passive gravitational mass) in Rev. Mod. Phys. 29, 423 (1957).
Before Bondi, what did gravitational mass refer to, active, passive, both, or something else?

D H said:
Just because something is published in a peer reviewed journal doesn't it is accepted. Getting something published is the starting point of a new scientific idea, not the culmination. In this case, the concept of active versus passive gravitational mass is viewed as an exotic, or fringe, idea.
That's interesting. I did not realize these concepts were considered exotic or fringe. I noticed that you preceded your statement with "in this case". Could you explain what you mean by this? Are there cases where these terms have different meanings?

D H said:
Nonetheless, this idea has been tested, and more than just once. Just to name a few,

L.B.Kreuzer, "Experimental Measurement of Active and Passive Gravitational Mass," Phys. Rev. 169, 1007–1012 (1968);
D.F.Bartlett, D.van Buren, "Equivalence of active and passive gravitational mass using the moon," Phys. Rev. Lett. 57, 21–24 (1986);
D.P.Rubincam, "Mars seasonal polar caps as a test of the equivalence principle," Phys. Rev. D 84, 042001 (2011).

The exact same concept applies to charge as well as mass. It too has been tested; e.g.,

C.Lämmerzahl, A.Macias, H.Müller, "Limits to differences in active and passive charges," Phys. Rev. A 75, 052104 (2007).
The L.B.Kreuzer experiment is the one I was referring to in my post #7 where I stated "That's not true for Ma. It is very poorly tested. Only one laboratory test in the past 45 years." The D.F.Bartlett, D.van Buren experiment is not a laboratory experiment. It is better described as a thought experiment based on the Wikipedia equations I posted in the OP of this thread. It assumes that the third law would be violated if Mp <> Ma. The Kreuzer laboratory experiment does not make this assumption.

I really appreciate your comments on this DH. It's hard to find others who have an interest in, or are willing to discuss, this topic. I will read the last two articles you sited if/when I can find a free copy.

Staff Emeritus
Before Bondi, what did gravitational mass refer to, active, passive, both, or something else?
Taking it in stages,
• In Newtonian mechanics, the mass in F=ma and the masses in F=GMm/r2 are one and the same. Reading through Newton's papers, I don't see any sign that he saw any distinction at all between the inertial mass in his second law of motion and the gravitational mass in his universal law of gravitation.
• Einstein saw that those equations left an opening for a distinction between the two concepts of mass. His equivalence principle says that inertial and gravitational mass are one and the same thing.
• Bondi saw yet another possible bifurcation in Newton's law of universal gravitation. This is where the concept of active versus passive gravitational mass first arose.
What Einstein did and what Bondi did are very different things. While both Einstein and Bondi pointed out implicit assumptions in Newton's theories, that is where the similarity ends. Einstein's equivalence principle make Newton's implicit assumption explicit. He did not ask "what if those concepts of mass are different?" Instead he asked "what does inertial mass and gravitational mass being one and the same mean?" This line of questioning was the key to general relativity.

Contrast that to Bondi's concept of active and passive gravitational mass. Before Bondi, the distinction between the two just didn't exist. His distinction adds nothing new to physics if they are one and the same thing. If they are not necessarily the same, all of the conservation laws go out the window.

D H said:
Just because something is published in a peer reviewed journal doesn't it is accepted. Getting something published is the starting point of a new scientific idea, not the culmination. In this case, the concept of active versus passive gravitational mass is viewed as an exotic, or fringe, idea.
That's interesting. I did not realize these concepts were considered exotic or fringe. I noticed that you preceded your statement with "in this case". Could you explain what you mean by this? Are there cases where these terms have different meanings?
Let me rephrase that paragraph of mine:
Just because something is published in a peer reviewed journal doesn't it is accepted. Getting something published is the starting point of a new scientific idea, not the culmination. Just because Bondi got his idea of active versus passive gravitational mass published does not mean that it is accepted science. To the contrary: Most physicists view it as an exotic, or fringe, idea.​

As noted above, the conservation laws would have to be tossed were Bondi correct about passive gravitational mass being distinct from active gravitational mass. Emily Noether had already shown how truly deep those conservation laws are. Throwing the conservation laws out because of what most physicists viewed as an artifice would require a lot of evidence. ("Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.")

The L.B.Kreuzer experiment is the one I was referring to in my post #7 where I stated "That's not true for Ma. It is very poorly tested. Only one laboratory test in the past 45 years." The D.F.Bartlett, D.van Buren experiment is not a laboratory experiment.
It most certainly is a laboratory experiment. The universe is the grand laboratory by which most gravitational theories are tested. It was Kepler's laboratory, and Newton's, and Einstein's. You are not going to see distinctions between general relativity and Newtonian gravity on the scale of what you call a laboratory experiment. Large masses and large velocities are needed to make such distinctions observable. It was the precession of Mercury and the bending of light by the sun as observed during the 1922 eclipse that convinced physicists that general relativity was correct, not some puny human-scale laboratory experiment.

I really appreciate your comments on this DH. It's hard to find others who have an interest in, or are willing to discuss, this topic. I will read the last two articles you sited if/when I can find a free copy.
That's because most people don't want to waste time on fringy notions. And this is fringy. Not crackpot, mind you, fringy. There's a huge difference between crackpot and fringe notions.

TurtleMeister
D H said:
In Newtonian mechanics, the mass in F=ma and the masses in F=GMm/r2 are one and the same. Reading through Newton's papers, I don't see any sign that he saw any distinction at all between the inertial mass in his second law of motion and the gravitational mass in his universal law of gravitation.
I understand and agree. In Newton's time there was no distinction.
D H said:
Einstein saw that those equations left an opening for a distinction between the two concepts of mass. His equivalence principle says that inertial and gravitational mass are one and the same thing.
But here you have omitted what my question was about. What two concepts of mass did Einstein see an opening for? Inertial and active gravitational mass, inertial and passive gravitational mass, or something else? I think I know what it is, but I'll wait and see what your thoughts are.
D H said:
Bondi saw yet another possible bifurcation in Newton's law of universal gravitation. This is where the concept of active versus passive gravitational mass first arose.
I understand and agree.
D H said:
What Einstein did and what Bondi did are very different things. While both Einstein and Bondi pointed out implicit assumptions in Newton's theories, that is where the similarity ends. Einstein's equivalence principle make Newton's implicit assumption explicit. He did not ask "what if those concepts of mass are different?" Instead he asked "what does inertial mass and gravitational mass being one and the same mean?" This line of questioning was the key to general relativity.

Contrast that to Bondi's concept of active and passive gravitational mass. Before Bondi, the distinction between the two just didn't exist. His distinction adds nothing new to physics if they are one and the same thing. If they are not necessarily the same, all of the conservation laws go out the window.
I agree. Except I think it is passive gravitational mass and inertial mass that are usually considered to be one and the same thing. And it is the equality of these two concepts of mass that have been tested to very high precision.

D H said:
As noted above, the conservation laws would have to be tossed were Bondi correct about passive gravitational mass being distinct from active gravitational mass. Emily Noether had already shown how truly deep those conservation laws are. Throwing the conservation laws out because of what most physicists viewed as an artifice would require a lot of evidence. ("Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.")
I agree. Except I would replace "active gravitational mass" with "inertial mass" in the above quote. In fact, the title of this thread is not what I would have chosen. My choice would have been "Gravitational (active) mass vs inertial (passive) mass". To give an example, look at the abstract to D.P.Rubincam's article that you cited in post #17.

D H said:
It most certainly is a laboratory experiment. The universe is the grand laboratory by which most gravitational theories are tested. It was Kepler's laboratory, and Newton's, and Einstein's. You are not going to see distinctions between general relativity and Newtonian gravity on the scale of what you call a laboratory experiment. Large masses and large velocities are needed to make such distinctions observable. It was the precession of Mercury and the bending of light by the sun observed during the 1922 eclipse that convinced physicists that general relativity was correct, not some puny human-scale laboratory experiment.
You missed the point. The point I was trying to make is that the Kreuzer experiment did not assume that the third law of motion would be violated if Ma <> Mi / Mp, while the Bartlett / Buren experiment DID make this assumption (the Wikipedia equations). They did their thought experiment and then concluded "hey look, the third law is not being violated (the moon is not self accelerating), so Ma must be equivalent to Mi / Mp". Compare that to the many, many high precision torsion balance experiments that have been conducted to test the equivalence of Mp and Mi which did not make such an assumption. So why should we give credence to the one (or maybe two) thought experiments to test the equivalence of Ma and Mi / Mp which did make this assumption?

That's the reason I maintain that the Kreuzer experiment is the only legitimate experiment in the past 45 years to test the equivalence of Ma and Mi / Mp. And the experiment only achieved a precision of 5x10-5. It's a wide open field for experimentation. But it is being ignored because of those Wikipedia equations.

D H said:
That's because most people don't want to waste time on fringy notions. And this is fringy. Not crackpot, mind you, fringy. There's a huge difference between crackpot and fringe notions.
Well, thank you for taking the time to discuss my fringy interest with me. :)

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Staff Emeritus
But here you have omitted what my question was about. What two concepts of mass did Einstein see an opening for?
Inertial mass and gravitational mass. By focusing on passive versus active gravitational mass you are missing big chunks of what the equivalence principle is about. Einstein had already established another equivalence in his 1905 papers: That between inertial mass and energy. The equivalence principle adds gravitational mass to the mix. Einstein had no need to distinguish between passive and active gravitational mass. He had a much better name for "active gravitational mass": Energy. It is energy, not mass, that gravitates in general relativity.

You appear to be getting a lot of your information from that wikipedia article on the equivalence principle. Take a close look at that article. Take an even closer look at the largish section entitled "Active, passive, and inertial masses." That section is very out of place. Moreover, it is missing something that is supposedly very crucial to wikipedia articles: Where are the references?

That's the reason I maintain that the Kreuzer experiment is the only legitimate experiment in the past 45 years to test the equivalence of Ma and Mi / Mp.
Most physicists disagree with your contention.

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TurtleMeister
D H said:
Inertial mass and gravitational mass. By focusing on passive versus active gravitational mass you are missing big chunks of what the equivalence principle is about. Einstein had already established another equivalence in his 1905 papers: That between inertial mass and energy. The equivalence principle adds gravitational mass to the mix. Einstein had no need to distinguish between passive and active gravitational mass. He had a much better name for "active gravitational mass": Energy. It is energy, not mass, that gravitates in general relativity.
Thanks for the info. Unfortunately, I am reluctant to comment on this as I have not studied Einstein and GR enough to be comfortable with discussing it in any great detail.
You appear to be getting a lot of your information from that Wikipedia article on the equivalence principle. Take a close look at that article. Take an even closer look at the largish section entitled "Active, passive, and inertial masses." That section is very out of place. Moreover, it is missing something that is supposedly very crucial to Wikipedia articles: Where are the references?
Actually no, I am not getting most of my information from that article. As I've stated before, I simply cited that section because it was convenient. It agrees with everything else I have read on the subject. I would not have posted it otherwise. Please notice that I only posted a small section of that article. If you need other sources then try chapter 4 page 102 of the Max Jammer book I mentioned previously. I can also find others if needed.
"D H" said:
TurtleMeister said:
That's the reason I maintain that the Kreuzer experiment is the only legitimate experiment in the past 45 years to test the equivalence of Ma and Mi / Mp.
Most physicists disagree with your contention.
Well, if this is really considered to be a fringy concept by most physicists, then I can understand why they would publicly disagree. All I'm asking is for anyone who is remotely interested in this discussion to just study the experiments and articles and draw your own conclusion.

Update:
I just read the introduction to the Rubincam article you cited. It is based on the same assumptions (Wikipedia equations) as the Bartlett and Van Buren article. It even states in the introduction that the experiment is similar to the Bartlett and Van Buren experiment which uses the lack of observed self-acceleration of an astronomical body to justify it's conclusion that the equivalence principle holds for Ma = Mi / Mp.

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DrStupid
In Newtonian mechanics, the mass in F=ma and the masses in F=GMm/r2 are one and the same. Reading through Newton's papers, I don't see any sign that he saw any distinction at all between the inertial mass in his second law of motion and the gravitational mass in his universal law of gravitation.

"The quantity of matter is the measure of the same, arising from its density and bulk conjointly.

THUS AIR of a double density, in a double space, is quadruple in quantity; in a triple space, sextuple in quantity. The same thing is to be understood of snow, and fine dust or powders, that are condensed by compression or liquefaction, and of all bodies that are by any causes whatever differently condensed. I have no regard in this place to a medium, if any such there is, that freely pervades the interstices between the parts of bodies. It is this quantity that I mean hereafter everywhere under the name of body or mass. And the same is known by the weight of each body, for it is proportional to the weight, as I have found by experiments on pendulums, very accurately made, which shall be shown hereafter."

In the last sentence he distinguishes between mass and weight. But in the same breath he declares that he will take them as identical in the following text because the proportionality has been proven experimentally. This is the weak equivalence principle.

TurtleMeister
Good catch DrStrupid. It appears that Newton did make a distinction between inertial mass (mass) and passive gravitational mass (weight). It is evidenced by his pendulum experiments, where he used a bob made of different materials and compared their periods. This makes me wonder if the trichotomy of mass that we're familiar with today was actually known about, or at least contemplated, as far back as Newton's time, but was just not referred to by any name.

TurtleMeister
Edit: I noticed an error in my post #22. The reference to page 102 in Max Jammer's book should be page 132.

Also, I just wanted to mention that there is a short paper by John Roche "What Is Mass?" that covers the history of the three concepts of mass that we have been discussing in this thread.

Staff Emeritus
This makes me wonder if the trichotomy of mass that we're familiar with today was actually known about, or at least contemplated, as far back as Newton's time, but was just not referred to by any name.
You mentioned John Roche's paper in very next post. From that paper,
Hermann Bondi developed this classification further in 1957, by adding the term ‘active gravitational mass’ and re-describing Einstein’s ‘gravitational mass’ as ‘passive gravitational mass’​

You missed the point. ... That's the reason I maintain that the Kreuzer experiment is the only legitimate experiment in the past 45 years to test the equivalence of Ma and Mi / Mp.
Most physicists disagree with your contention.
You have a misunderstanding of how experimental science works. Indirect observation is often the only option to scientists available because many things in science are not directly observable. There's no such thing as a gravity detector, but a device that measures acceleration with respect to a local free-falling frame (aka an accelerometer) can serve as a stand-in. There's no way to directly see neutrinos, but they can be seen indirectly thanks to the (occasional) weak interactions between neutrinos and baryonic matter; the subsequent decay of the products created by those interactions is observable.

Even when direct observations can be made, indirect observations oftentimes provide a stronger test. In the problem at hand, violations of Newton's third law necessarily result if active and passive gravitational mass are not equivalent. Looking for such violations most certainly is a valid test of this concept. This indirect observation provides a much stronger test of the proposition than do Cavendish balance type tests.

TurtleMeister
D H said:
TurtleMeister said:
This makes me wonder if the trichotomy of mass that we're familiar with today was actually known about, or at least contemplated, as far back as Newton's time, but was just not referred to by any name.
You mentioned John Roche's paper in very next post. From that paper,

Hermann Bondi developed this classification further in 1957, by adding the term ‘active gravitational mass’ and re-describing Einstein’s ‘gravitational mass’ as ‘passive gravitational mass’
Yes, I noticed that in Roche's paper. It does nothing to disprove my conjecture. It could be that Bondi simply gave names to what had already been contemplated as far back as the time of Newton. It does however answer a question that I asked in a previous post:
TurtleMeister said:
What two concepts of mass did Einstein see an opening for? Inertial and active gravitational mass, inertial and passive gravitational mass, or something else?

D H said:
Even when direct observations can be made, indirect observations oftentimes provide a stronger test. In the problem at hand, violations of Newton's third law necessarily result if active and passive gravitational mass are not equivalent. Looking for such violations most certainly is a valid test of this concept. This indirect observation provides a much stronger test of the proposition than do Cavendish balance type tests.
Good comeback DH. I can tell you're giving this more serious consideration now. You're addressing the point of my thread.

How can the Bartlett and Van Buren type of experiment be considered a stronger test than a torsion balance type experiment when the former relies on an assumption that the latter does not? Why should we base our experimental conclusion on an assumption when we don't have to?

Staff Emeritus
How can the Bartlett and Van Buren type of experiment be considered a stronger test than a torsion balance type experiment when the former relies on an assumption that the latter does not? Why should we base our experimental conclusion on an assumption when we don't have to?
What assumption? That third law violations would result were active, passive, and inertial mass not one and the same thing are a direct consequence of Newton's second law and his universal law of gravitation. That isn't an assumption, it is a consequence. Looking for some consequence of a hypothesis is a standard way of testing said hypothesis. Bartlett and Van Buren's experiment was not assumption-free. They assumed that forces are still subject to the superposition principle and as a consequence, that the observed torsion can still serve as a surrogate for the gravitational attraction.

As for which test is stronger, which gave the smaller upper bound on Ma/ma-Mb/mb?

DrStupid
That third law violations would result were active, passive, and inertial mass not one and the same thing are a direct consequence of Newton's second law and his universal law of gravitation.

That's true for active and passive gravitational mass but not for inertial mass. A difference between gravitational and inertial mass would be compatible with Newton's third law but not with the Galilean equivalence principle.

Just a quick comment that might be useful. Rindler (p21) states that Newtonian active gravitational mass goes over into GR as the creator of the gravitational field, while Newtonian passive gravitational mass goes into banishment along with the ether, and inertial mass survives only in non-gravitational contexts.

I think the experimental evidence is sufficient that we no longer test Newtonian gravity per se (it is already falsified), we only test it as an excellent approximation to GR in some regimes.

TurtleMeister
D H said:
As for which test is stronger, which gave the smaller upper bound on Ma/ma-Mb/mb?
My point is that the current level of technology for torsion balance experiments meets or exceeds the level of precision of the Bartlett and Van Buren thought experiment, but these types of experiments are not being done because of what you posted:
"D H" said:
What assumption? That third law violations would result were active, passive, and inertial mass not one and the same thing are a direct consequence of Newton's second law and his universal law of gravitation. That isn't an assumption, it is a consequence. Looking for some consequence of a hypothesis is a standard way of testing said hypothesis. Bartlett and Van Buren's experiment was not assumption-free. They assumed that forces are still subject to the superposition principle and as a consequence, that the observed torsion can still serve as a surrogate for the gravitational attraction.
I notice that you were previously criticized my use of the Wikipedia equations and now you are defending them. But that's good because you're now seeing what I am having a problem with.
DrStupid said:
D H said:
That third law violations would result were active, passive, and inertial mass not one and the same thing are a direct consequence of Newton's second law and his universal law of gravitation.
That's true for active and passive gravitational mass but not for inertial mass. A difference between gravitational and inertial mass would be compatible with Newton's third law but not with the Galilean equivalence principle.
I agree that Ma <> Mi would not violate the third law, but I do not know how it would violate the Galilean equivalence principle.

Thanks for the comments atyy. Even though I'm reluctant to discuss GR because of my lack of knowledge in that area, I did notice a possible contradiction between the statements quoted from Rindler and Roche.
Newtonian active gravitational mass (the creator of the field) goes over to GR as the creator of the curvature. Newtonian passive gravitational mass (that which is pulled by the field) goes into banishment along with the ether, ect.
Hermann Bondi developed this classification further in 1957, by adding the term ‘active gravitational mass’ and re-describing Einstein’s ‘gravitational mass’ as ‘passive gravitational mass’
The Rindler quote seems to imply that passive gravitational mass does not exist in GR, while the Roche quote seems to imply that passive gravitational mass is what was once referred to as simply gravitational mass in GR.

Thanks to everyone who has provided comments on this. I will return later to try and explain why I am having a problem understanding the use of the wiki equations as a justification for the Ma equality.

Thanks for the comments atyy. Even though I'm reluctant to discuss GR because of my lack of knowledge in that area, I did notice a possible contradiction between the statements quoted from Rindler and Roche.

The Rindler quote seems to imply that passive gravitational mass does not exist in GR, while the Roche quote seems to imply that passive gravitational mass is what was once referred to as simply gravitational mass in GR.

Einstein used ideas of "gravitational mass" in two contexts. One in the equivalence principle during the development of GR, here the gravitational mass is the Newtonian passive gravitational mass. Secondly as the thing that causes spacetime curvature in full GR, this is the analogue of Newtonian active gravitational mass.

So for asking about the analogue of passive gravitational mass in GR, one would ask how the equivalence principle is implemented. The EP is implemented by saying that the spacetime has the same signature as in special relativity, and that matter fields are minimally coupled to spacetime. Anyway the main point is that the geodesic equation (which is essentially universality of free fall to make the connection to the WEP) is no longer an independent principle, but rather derived as an approximate equation from the full field equations containing active gravitational mass.

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DrStupid
I agree that Ma <> Mi would not violate the third law, but I do not know how it would violate the Galilean equivalence principle.

Two bodies with the same inertial mass, initial position and velocity but different gravitational mass would have different trajectories. The Galilean equivalence principle at least requires the same correlation between gravitational and inertial mass for all bodies.

TurtleMeister
Yes, you are correct DrStupid. Ma <> Mi would indeed violate the Galilean equivalence principle. But it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to detect in earth free fall. We could however use a torsion balance to detect the difference in their active gravitational mass.

Before going on, I would like to do a thought experiment to make sure we are all on the same page and that I do not have any misconceptions. This thought experiment is not possible in reality. I use it here only to demonstrate my understanding of the concepts involved in this discussion. Please let me know if you think I have anything wrong here.

Thought experiment 1:
The scenario is the two body problem where there are no other outside forces acting on the bodies. Bodies A and B are separated by distance r. Initially the bodies are stationary and not allowed to move. The mass of both A and B are equal in all respects, except for the active gravitational mass of B. B generates no gravitational field of it's own. If we now allow the bodies to move, B will accelerate toward A, but A will not move. The point of impact will be at body A, a distance of r/2 from the common center of inertial mass of the two bodies. The third law will be vioated. If we now give B a gravitational field, but only one half that of A, then both A and B will move. The acceleration of B will be double the acceleration of A. The point of impact will be r/4 from the common center of inertial mass of the two bodies. The third law will be violated.

TurtleMeister
Sorry about the delay. I've been very busy this week. Since there have been no responses to my previous post I will assume that my thought experiment 1 is correct and agrees with the Wikipedia equations and the mainstream concepts. I will try to get to the point of what I'm having trouble with. But first I must do another thought experiment.

Thought experiment 2:
The scenario is the same as before, except the two bodies are composed of ferromagnetic material. Body A is a permanent magnet, so it is the creator of a magnetic field. Body B is not a magnet, so it does not have a magnetic field of it's own. When A and B are allowed to move, they will accelerate toward each other and meet at their common center of inertial mass. The third law is not violated. If I now make body B a permanent magnet but give it only half the pull force of body A, then the acceleration of both bodies will increase by the same amount and they will still meet at their common center of inertial mass. The third law is not violated.

Now let's go back to what started this thread:
jtbell said:
The two forces have equal status. You cannot consider one of them to be "cause" and the other to be "effect." You should not take the words "action" and "reaction" in the context of the Third Law as indicating "cause" and "effect". They are simply a commonly-used terminology.

[added] When I teach Newton's Third Law in an introductory course, I avoid using the words "action" and "reaction" except to address confusions such as this.
I agree with jtbell's post, and it is very much true for thought experiment 2. A exerts a force on B (action), and B exerts an equal but opposite force on A (reaction). And when B was given a magnetic field, it exerted a force on A (action), and A exerted a force on B (reaction). The third law holds true regardless of which body is the creator of the force, it could be A, B, or both. I think this is pretty much the standard definition of the third law.

However, in thought experiment 1, there are no reaction forces at all, only action forces. Since there are no reaction forces, then obviously both bodies must have equal but opposite action forces (gravitational fields) to prevent a violation of the conservation of momentum. So how can this be a legitimate use of the third law of motion?