(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Measuring the relativistic mass and energy

When we speak about a physical quantity we should define it and it is compulsory to propose a procedure of measuring it.

But how does one measure relativistic mass? The answer lies in the fact that relativistic mass (as well as proper mass) is never really measured directly, nor is energy measured directly. As Jammer1 wrote, “As in the last analysis all measurements in physics are kinematic in nature.” So, one does not measure mass nor energy. One calculates them from measured kinematic quantities. Suppose you know the strength of a uniform magnetic field B. Launch a charged particle, of magnitude charge q, into the field such that the velocity is perpendicular to the field lines. The charge will move in a circle of radius r. B is known while r and v are measurable. Then use the cyclotron relation p=qBr to find p. Then m=p/v. Multiply by c2 to get the relativistic energy of the particle E=mc2. We have indicated a measurement procedure for a physical quantity on which physicists wish to ban.2

References

1 Max Jammer, Concept of Mass in Classical and Modern Physics, (Harper and Row, 1964, Dover 1997)

2 Lev Okun, “The concept of mass,” Phys.Today, 42, 31-36 (1989)

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# Measuring relativistic mass

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