Inertia, gravity and the meaning of mass

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Our concept of mass has evolved considerably over the centuries, most notably from Newton to Einstein, and then even more vigorously with the establishment of the standard model and the subsequent discovery of the Higgs boson. Mass is now invoked in various guises depending on the circumstance: it is used to represent inertia, or as a coupling constant in Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and even as a repository of a mysterious form of energy associated with a particle at rest. But recent developments in cosmology have demonstrated that rest-mass energy is most likely the gravitational binding energy of a particle in causal contact with that portion of the Universe within our gravitational horizon. In this paper, we examine how all these variations on the concept of mass are actually interrelated via this new development and the recognition that the source of gravity in general relativity is ultimately the total energy in the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberad16c7
JournalPhysica Scripta
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • classical theories of gravity
  • general relativity
  • gravitational mass
  • inertia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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