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Does E=mc^2 apply to the proton

  1. Oct 2, 2013 #1


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    Most of the proton REST mass is energy anyway. So how does that work?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2013 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    In general, the mass of a system of particles (e.g. the proton which is a system of three quarks) is not the sum of the masses of the constituent particles.

    The total energy of the system equals the sum of (a) the rest-energies E0 of the constituent particles (which correspond to their individual masses via E0 = mc2), (b) their kinetic energies, and (c) the potential energy of the system. The total energy corresponds to the mass of the system via E = mc2, if the system "as a whole" is at rest, i.e. if the total (vector) momentum is zero.

    (By "mass" I always mean what is often called "rest mass.")
  4. Oct 2, 2013 #3


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    Staff Emeritus
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    This doesn't make any sense.

    A photon has energy, yet it has no rest mass! So having energy does NOT automatically equate to having rest mass.

    A rest mass has an EQUIVALENT energy content. But an object such as a proton does NOT just have "energy content". It may have other properties as well, such as charge, spin... and yes, rest mass.

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