How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 35

Why is force = mass * acceleration an exact relationship (i.e. why not force = 2 * mass * acceleration)?
The answer to this puzzle lies in the definition of force. How would you measure the amount of a force? Well, you would push on something with a known mass and see how much it accelerates! Thus this relationship (Newton's second law) actually establishes the scale for measuring forces. If your second relationship were chosen as the standard, then all the forces in the universe would simply be redefined up by a factor of two! This redefinition wouldn't harm anything but then Newton's second law would have a clunky numerical constant in it. Naturally, the 2 is omitted in the official law.

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