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ERIC Number: EJ1025204
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 3
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 2
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Mass as a Form of Energy in a Simple Example
Dib, Claudio
Physics Teacher, v51 n9 p546-548 Dec 2013
A major consequence of special relativity, expressed in the relation E[subscript 0] = mc[superscript 2], is that the total energy content of an object at rest, including its thermal motion and binding energy among its constituents, is a measure of its inertia, i.e., its mass. This relation was first stated by Einstein. He showed that, in order to be consistent with the principles of special relativity, there must be a loss of inertia in a block that emits two pulses of electromagnetic radiation. A pedagogical difficulty with this example is that radiation is a purely relativistic phenomenon, and so the connection with the examples one learns in introductory mechanics courses is not simple. Here we use a more familiar example of masses and springs, where the nonrelativistic limit can be easily found and where the potential energy is clearly shown to be part of the mass of the bound system.
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A