Common Units of Mass

SI:

Gram (g)

   1 g = 0.001 kg

Kilogram (kg)

   1 kg = 2.2 lbm

1 kg = 0.0685 slug

English:

Pound mass (lbm)

   1 lbm = 0.4536 kg

Slug (slug)

   1 slug = 14.5939 kg

What is Mass?

Generally, mass is defined as the measure of how much matter an object or body contains -- the total number of subatomic particles (electrons, protons and neutrons) in the object. If you multiply your mass by the pull of Earth's gravity, you get your weight. So if your body weight is fluctuating, because of eating or exercising, it is actually the number of atoms that is changing.

It is important to understand that mass is independent of your position in space. Your body's mass on the moon is the same as its mass on Earth, because the number of atoms is the same. The Earth's gravitational pull, on the other hand, decreases as you move farther away from the Earth. Therefore, you can lose weight by changing your elevation, but your mass remains the same. You can also lose weight by living on the moon, but again, your mass is the same.

Mass is important for calculating how quickly things accelerate when we apply a force to them. What determines how fast a car can accelerate? You probably know that your car accelerates slower if it has five adults in it than if it has just one. We'll explore this relationship between mass, force and acceleration in a little more detail after we talk about force.