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Questons about Big G

  1. Oct 27, 2009 #1
    According to Wikipedia, Big G is a constant of proportionality. When speaking of proportionality one thinks of two quantities which can vary in such a way as to have a constant ratio of something. If that is true, then in the case of Big G, what are the quantities, and what is the something?
     
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  3. Oct 27, 2009 #2

    A.T.

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    So you have already read this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_constant
    including
    7cdf733b81cd2b83d434160241d6023c.png
    and
    981c4a7801639525969c8d798aca28ce.png
    and you ask what is proportional to what, and what the units of G are?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Oct 27, 2009 #3
    Thank you for the reply A.T. I think I'm understanding the proportionality better now. However, I am still confused about something. In Newton's second law of motion there is no constant of proportionality (F = ma). Here there is a direct relationship between force, mass, and acceleration. But in the universal law of gravitation, the proportionality G is required. Why is that? I understand the inverse square of the distance. But why does it appear that the mass used in the universal law of gravitation is different from the mass used in the second law of motion?
     
  5. Oct 27, 2009 #4

    Nabeshin

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    I believe the reason for the lack of constant of proportionality in F=ma is due to how force is defined. For example, having a definition of mass and acceleration, we define the force of 1N to be that which is produces a 1m/s^2 acceleration of a 1kg body. Now, we COULD have defined force differently, perhaps using the universal law. In this case, we would say something like 1N is the force two 1kg bodies exert on each other at a distance of 1m. I think then you would actually get the constant of proportionality, G, in f=ma somewhere.

    Cheers.
     
  6. Oct 27, 2009 #5
    For gravity, "G" is inside "a". To line up the terms, F = (m)(a) corresponds to F = (m1) (G m2/r^2). The last thing in parentheses is the acceleration of m1.
     
  7. Oct 27, 2009 #6
    Are you saying that 1N in the universal law of gravitation has (or could have) a different definition than 1N in the second law of motion? I must be misunderstanding you because that doesn't make any sense.
    Yes, I understand that G is used for a force due to gravity. I guess I should rephrase the question.

    Disregarding the inverse square of the distance - I understand that, why is a constant of proportionality required for a force on an object due to gravity and not for a force on the same object due to acceleration (such as that produced by a rocket)?
     
  8. Oct 27, 2009 #7

    Nabeshin

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    That is indeed what I'm saying, but note that the choice of the symbol N is a bit deceiving, since we think of 1 Newton = 1 kg*m/s^2. This would be a different unit, but corresponding to our concept of force. In particular, it would have dimensions mass^2/length^2.
     
  9. Oct 28, 2009 #8

    A.T.

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    That is just an artifact of the used unit system. You can use a unit system where G = 1, so it doesn't appear in the formula:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geometrized_unit_system
     
  10. Oct 28, 2009 #9
    That is interesting A.T. But I'm not sure it clears things up for me. For example, just like G, pi is a constant of proportionality. If we change the unit system in an equation so that pi does not appear then we have not erased what it represents, we have only hidden it. The proportionality is still there. Also, if we change the unit system for universal gravitation then wouldn't we also have to change it for the second law of motion thereby putting us right back where we started from with the discrepancy?
     
  11. Oct 29, 2009 #10
    Thank you A.T., Nabeshin, and mikelepore for the responses.

    I'm still unclear about what BigG is a proportionality of. All the text I have read does not go into detail. It appears to have the units of force, but force of what? The two masses?

    I know that there are three types of mass, or properties of mass. Active, passive, and inertial. I know that the m in F = ma is inertial. But I'm not sure about F = (GMm) / r2. I'm thinking active and passive. That would explain the discrepancy between universal gravitation and the second law of motion. But what about G? Does it represent the proportionality between the active and passive mass? Wouldn't a proportionality between the masses violate the equivalence principle?
     
  12. Oct 29, 2009 #11

    ideasrule

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    Forget about the equivalence principle, active/passive masses, and the like. GMm/r^2 is part of Newtonian equation, so general relativity is irrelevant.

    There were no units of force at the time of Newton. The SI unit of force, the newton, was chosen so that F=ma. It could have been chosen so that F=Mm/r^2; then F=kma because the force needed to accelerate 1 kg at 1 m/s^2 isn't the same as the force between 2 1-kg objects separated by 1 m.
     
  13. Oct 29, 2009 #12

    jtbell

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    G is the constant of proportionality between force (which has units of newtons as defined by F = ma) and Mm/r^2 (which has units of kg^2/m^2). Accordingly, G has units of N*m^2/kg^2 in order to make the units balance on both sides of F = GMm/r^2.

    In principle, we could define the gravitational force between two 1-kg masses separated by 1 m to be a new unit of force, and call it, say, the "Cavendish" (Cav). In Cavendish units, the law of gravitation would read simply F = Mm/r^2. The second law of motion would read F = Cma, where C is a proportionality constant with units of Cav/(kg*m/sec^2) = Cav*sec^2/(kg*m).
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009
  14. Oct 29, 2009 #13
    Thanks very much for the replies. I think you guys are saying the same thing as A.T. Sorry, I guess I'm not being very clear on what I'm asking. I understand that the equations can be manipulated by changing the unit system. However, doing so does not change the fact that there is a proportionality difference between the second law of motion and the universal law of gravitation. And that is what my question is about. For example:

    a = 3
    b = 4
    C = 0.25 'constant of proportionality

    ab = 12
    Cab = 3

    C tells me that something in the second equation (either a or b) is 1/4 what it is in the first equation. So in the universal law of gravitation, what is G telling me?
     
  15. Oct 29, 2009 #14

    A.T.

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    It seems you don't understand what a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constant_of_proportionality" [Broken] is. In this example C is not a constant of proportionality between two variables.

    They could also be both 1/2 of the first, or any other combination that gives 1/4 as product. So C tells you little here.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. Oct 29, 2009 #15
    I thought it was probably something I was not understanding. Could you possibly give me an example (similar to mine) where C is a constant of proportionality?
     
  17. Oct 29, 2009 #16

    A.T.

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  18. Oct 29, 2009 #17

    Dale

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    F = G mM/r²
    ma = G mM/r²
    a = G M/r²
    a r²/M = G

    Is that what you want?
     
  19. Oct 29, 2009 #18
    Ok, I think I understand now. G is the constant of proportionality between the force and the mass? Can I assume that G is so small because of the very weak gravitational force of the mass? And the reason it's not needed for the second law of motion is that the second law of motion does not rely on a gravitational field?
     
  20. Oct 29, 2009 #19

    Dale

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    G is small because of our choice of units. The only fundamental constants whose values have any physical significance are the dimensionless ones like the fine structure constant. All others are purely an artifact of the chosen system of units.
     
  21. Oct 29, 2009 #20
    So we could change our system of units so that G was large in relation to M? If so, what would happen to F = ma?
     
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