Def'n: mass vs. weight / kg vs. lbs

In summary: Lb for mass and force, but then again I'm not a scientist.In summary, my friend who has been researching basic physics says that the pound-force is the US and UK's official unit for force or weight due to gravity, while pounds are units of weight. The difference between pounds and kilograms is mainly academic, but it is real.
  • #1

DaveC426913

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My friend, who has been researching basic physics, is saying the following, which I frankly had never heard of:

We use metric and imperial measurements interchangably (I weigh 82kg or 180 lbs, same diff) but they are not at their essense the same thing.

Pounds measure weight - our weight here on Earth (an effect of the gravitational pull of the Earth), whereas kilograms are intended to measure mass (a property of the number of atoms in the sample, independent of gravity). The distinction is largely academic, but it is real.

I do not doubt her knowledge, I have just never heard of this distinction. Is there truth to this?

Please don't misunderstand my question: I have no doubt whatever about the difference between weight and mass, my doubt is about the unit of measurement being pounds vs. kg.
 
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  • #2
Are you asking if there is a difference between mass and weight? If so, then yes; your weight is a force, and depends on the gravitational field in which you are being weighed, whereas your mass is an invariant quantity (i.e. doesn't depend on where it is being measured)

Note that, here, the pound being used is the "pound-force." There is also, to confuse matters enormously, a unit of mass called the pound (or "pound-mass").

Edit: Your last line wasn't there when I replied! Still, the confusion is probably arising due to there being two different quantities with the name "pound." In my experience, a pound is a unit of mass-- but then I was answering a homework question which used the pound as a unit of force (or weight). It was only then that I found out about this "pound-force," since I've only ever used the pound as being the imperial unit of mass!
 
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  • #3
Yes, you are correct...sort of. Some governments have officially declared "pound" as a unit of mass, including the US and UK. Pound-force is the US and UK's official unit for force or weight due to gravity.

Anyone who frequents the forum knows DaveC know what mass and weight are.
 
  • #4
KingNothing said:
Anyone who frequents the forum knows DaveC know what mass and weight are.

:blushing: Sorry, Dave!
 
  • #5
KingNothing said:
Anyone who frequents the forum knows DaveC know what mass and weight are.
I ... think I'm flattered... :confused:
 
  • #6
KingNothing said:
Yes, you are correct...sort of. Some governments have officially declared "pound" as a unit of mass, including the US and UK. Pound-force is the US and UK's official unit for force or weight due to gravity.

Anyone who frequents the forum knows DaveC know what mass and weight are.


Like I'm going to listen to the government:biggrin:. Officially for me, a pound is a unit of weight, just as a Newton or a dyne is a unit of weight (or force). Grams and kilograms are considered a unit of mass.

I often like when people say that 1 pound is equal to 454 grams and vise versa. Of course this is only true on the surface of the Earth but anyway...
 
  • #7
The (old) official unit of mass in the imperial system is/was the Slug. Pounds are units of force. So yes, there is a real difference between pounds and Kilograms.
 
  • #8
hover said:
I often like when people say that 1 pound is equal to 454 grams and vise versa. Of course this is only true on the surface of the Earth but anyway...
So, what is a pound equal to at the top of Mt. Everest, or on the Moon?
 
  • #9
KingNothing said:
Yes, you are correct...sort of. Some governments have officially declared "pound" as a unit of mass, including the US and UK. Pound-force is the US and UK's official unit for force or weight due to gravity.

Anyone who frequents the forum knows DaveC know what mass and weight are.
When did this happen? Back when I was in school (fighting off the dinosaurs with my abacus) "pound" was a unit of weight and so force.
 
  • #10
DaveC426913 said:
So, what is a pound equal to at the top of Mt. Everest, or on the Moon?

Assuming that we are now talking about "pound" as a measure of mass, one pound, of course!

If, on the other hand, we are talking about "pound" as a measure of weight (force) (the "real" definition to us geezers), its equivalence in grams (a measure of force) would be
1) 454 grams times (acceleration due to gravity at the top of Mt. Everest/acceleration due to gravity as sea level)

2) 454 grams times (acceleration due to gravity on the moon/acceleration due to gravity as sea level on the earthj)
 
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  • #11
Metric system rules!

:biggrin:
 
  • #12
Just to throw gas on the fire, there is a kg-force unit. I rarely see it, but it is around.

I have had to work with a lot of old calculations from quite a few years ago. It gets extremely confusing when the Lb unit is thrown in for both mass and force. I always add the modifier Lbm or Lbf. It was a definite shortcut for older types because they were interchangeable for 99% of the calculations you faced. Sometimes I will convert a problem over to metric just to make sure I haven't missed anything.

The other maddening part is that there may be an accepted mass unit (slug) but no one seems to stick to it. Not, at least, in papers and such that I read.
 
  • #14
Integral said:
The (old) official unit of mass in the imperial system is/was the Slug. Pounds are units of force. So yes, there is a real difference between pounds and Kilograms.

pound
–noun, plural pounds, (collectively) pound.
1. a unit of weight and of mass, varying in different periods and countries.
 
  • #16
KingNothing said:
pound
–noun, plural pounds, (collectively) pound.
1. a unit of weight and of mass, varying in different periods and countries.

For the most part standard dictionary definitions are held in pretty low regard when discussing physics terminology. You need to look in a physics text to get the formal definitions.
 
  • #17
Pounds are units of mass, force, and money. At one point in time, a one pound mass of silver subject to one standard gravity exerted a force of one pound and was worth one pound sterling. A nice, consistent set of units, no?

In the US, the term pound without any qualifier refers to the avoirdupois pound, a unit of mass. One pound (avoirdupois) is 0.45359237 kilograms, exactly (whether one is on the surface of the Moon or the surface of the Earth). There are other pounds that are also units of mass. For example, in the apothecaries' system, there are 20 grains per scruple, 3 scruples per dram, 8 drams per ounce, and 12 ounces per pound. This system makes much more sense than the avoirdupois system, which has 27.34375 drams per grain, 16 grains per ounce, and 16 ounces per pound. :yuck: (There is no tongue-in cheek smiley, so I used yuck instead.)

A pound is also a unit of force. To avoid confusion, the pound-force is abbreviated lbf. One pound (force) is 4.4482216152605 Newtons, exactly (whether one is on the surface of the Moon or the surface of the Earth). Of course, one pound-force is 16 ounces-fource.

Confused? Read again after taking a few drams of whiskey for mental clarity. (Note that drams are also an English unit of volume, used specifically for measuring Scottish whiskey).
 
  • #18
DaveC426913 said:
Why? What is that formula saying?

Do you not get what I'm saying:confused:?? On the moon 2.7 kilograms is equal to one pound. All that formula is is Newtons law of gravitation. I would think you would know that formula but to make sure you do i'll explain. The formula is-
G*m*m/r^2=f
G = gravitational constant (6.67e-11)
m = mass in kg
r = distance in meters.
f=force in Newtons

All that link is saying is that a mass of 2.7 kilograms on the moon is equal to a pound.
 
  • #19
hover said:
All that link is saying is that a mass of 2.7 kilograms on the moon is equal to a pound.

Not quite right. Read the results. It says 0.987 pounds force, not pounds. Pounds are units of mass, not weight.

The Google calculator http://www.google.com/search?num=10...I7GGLR&q=2.7+kilograms+in+pounds&btnG=Search" knows the difference between pounds (unit of mass) and pounds force (unit of force). 2.7 kilograms is 5.95 pounds, whether you are on the Earth, the Moon, or Jupiter.
 
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  • #20
The National Institute of Standards and Technology are the official US standard bearers regarding the definition of English system as implemented in the US. The pound (avoirdupois) has been defined as 0.45359237 kilograms, exactly, since 1959. This is the International Pound, the same pound used by other English-speaking nations. See http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/PUBS_LIB/FedRegister/FRdoc59-5442.pdf" for details.
 
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  • #21
D H said:
Not quite right. Read the results. It says 0.987 pounds force, not pounds. Pounds are units of mass, not weight.

The Google calculator http://www.google.com/search?num=10...I7GGLR&q=2.7+kilograms+in+pounds&btnG=Search" knows the difference between pounds (unit of mass) and pounds force (unit of force). 2.7 kilograms is 5.95 pounds, whether you are on the Earth, the Moon, or Jupiter.
Thank you, fer a sec, I thought I was bonkers.
 
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  • #22
Maybe I can finally forget all of this head-pounding silliness: http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?t=NPD&c=8010&s=2D"
All new programs and projects shall use the SI system of measurement in preference to customary U.S. measurement units, including related NASA procurements, grants, and business activities, except where the cognizant Program Manager or Headquarters Official-in-Charge determines that use of SI units is impractical, adds unacceptable risk, or is likely to cause significant inefficiencies or loss of markets to U.S. firms. Special emphasis shall be placed on maximum use of SI units in international cooperative programs.
 
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  • #23
He is saying that since the moon's gravity is roughly 1/6 of Earth's, one pound-force on Earth would be the weight of 1 kilogram on the moon.
 
  • #24
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  • #25
Integral said:
The (old) official unit of mass in the imperial system is/was the Slug. Pounds are units of force. So yes, there is a real difference between pounds and Kilograms.
Gee, I't's good to know that at least someone remembers the slug. Last time I checked (and admittedly that was 20 years ago), the slug is THE unit of mass in the US customary unit of measure, as used in Physics. . In Newton's second law, a 1 pound force is defined as that force necessary to accelerate an object with a mass of 1 slug at a rate of 1ft/sec/sec. And since W=mg, a 1 slug mass weighs 32 pounds, more or less, on Planet Earth. Any other way of defining mass in the US units will throw you for a loop when solving Physics problems in statics or dynamics using Newton's laws. And since metric, first introduced to the US was it 40 years ago, has all but died in the US (even NASA issues a big exception to the exclusive use of SI, and the FEDS have given up trying to make the transition), the slug is here to stay, like it or not, for another 40 years or more.
 
  • #26
hover said:
http://www.google.com/search?num=10...I7GGLR&q=2.7+kilograms+in+pounds&btnG=Search" link, you guys keep referring to is only true on the earth! I'M REFERING TO THE MOON! No crap that 2.7 kilograms on the Earth weighs 6 pounds BUT ON THE MOON 2.7 kilograms weighs 1 pound. And if you took measurements from another plant the value would change again. That's all I'm saying.

What you are saying is wrong because pounds are units of mass, just as are kilograms. You are confusing pounds with pounds-force. They are different things. People use the term "weigh" colloquially when they mean "mass". If you ask someone in England or Canada how much some object weighs, they will give an answer in kilograms, not Newtons.

http://www.google.com/search?num=10...I7GGLR&q=2.7+kilograms+in+pounds&btnG=Search" is true everywhere.
 
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  • #27
PhanthomJay said:
Gee, I't's good to know that at least someone remembers the slug. Last time I checked (and admittedly that was 20 years ago), the slug is THE unit of mass in the US customary unit of measure, as used in Physics. . In Newton's second law, a 1 pound force is defined as that force necessary to accelerate an object with a mass of 1 slug at a rate of 1ft/sec/sec. And since W=mg, a 1 slug mass weighs 32 pounds, more or less, on Planet Earth. Any other way of defining mass in the US units will throw you for a loop when solving Physics problems in statics or dynamics using Newton's laws. And since metric, first introduced to the US was it 40 years ago, has all but died in the US (even NASA issues a big exception to the exclusive use of SI, and the FEDS have given up trying to make the transition), the slug is here to stay, like it or not, for another 40 years or more.

You can have F=ma and use pounds for mass. You just have to express force in poundals rather than pounds-force.
 
  • #28
D H said:
You can have F=ma and use pounds for mass. You just have to express force in poundals rather than pounds-force.
All I'm saying is that while the the basic unit of Force in the SI system is the Newton, in the US system, the basic unit of Force is the pound, and mass must be expressed in slugs to achieve the proper force unit of pound. Sure, use poundals if you want, but don't expect to succeed in life, or in passing Physics.
 

What is the difference between mass and weight?

Mass refers to the amount of matter an object contains, while weight refers to the force of gravity acting on an object. In other words, mass is a measure of an object's inertia, while weight is a measure of the force required to accelerate an object.

How are mass and weight measured?

Mass is typically measured in units such as kilograms (kg) or grams (g), while weight is typically measured in units such as pounds (lbs) or newtons (N). Mass can be measured using a balance scale, while weight is measured using a spring scale.

Why is mass usually measured in kilograms and weight in pounds?

Kilograms and pounds are the most commonly used units for mass and weight respectively in everyday life and in the scientific community. However, mass can also be measured in pounds and weight in kilograms if desired.

Is there a conversion factor between kilograms and pounds?

Yes, there is a conversion factor between kilograms and pounds. One kilogram is equal to approximately 2.2 pounds. This means that to convert from kilograms to pounds, you would multiply the number of kilograms by 2.2. Similarly, to convert from pounds to kilograms, you would divide the number of pounds by 2.2.

Why is it important to understand the difference between mass and weight?

It is important to understand the difference between mass and weight in order to accurately describe and measure objects and their movements. Additionally, the concepts of mass and weight are fundamental in many scientific fields, including physics and engineering, and play a crucial role in understanding the laws of motion and gravity.

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