For instance, force was discovered to be proportional to mass and acceleration.

How are these proportional relationships discovered and proven to be true?


1 Answer 1


I think that the problem is that people think that $F=ma$ is a law (and needs a proof) while it is a definition of $F$ and $m$, so does not require a proof.

  • $\begingroup$ Wrong and wrong. Anything that is a mathematical (or physics) "law" is not provable - it's a premise or axiom upon which you build your system. It's easy to define mass and acceleration, showing that there's a useful thing that is the product of those, and relating that to energy consumption, is what matters. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2021 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft "It's easy to define mass..." I wouldn't go that far, try to provide a definition of mass that isn't dependent on force? That's like saying it's easy to define electric charge. I would say markvs is correct about Newton's law defining the concepts of mass and force, although because it's axiomatic, it's equivalent to also e.g. define momentum and force from them and to derive mass. It's also true that physical laws require proof (or rather, evidence), or must be derived from data. They must be based on experiment and observation. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2021 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft I believe there are no non-cyclical definitions of mass. If you have one, you are welcome to present it here. $\endgroup$
    – markvs
    Oct 9, 2021 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ @SamGallagher: The question was "How are these proportional relationships discovered and proven to be true?" My answer: these cannot be proved because these are definitions and not laws (provable statements). $\endgroup$
    – markvs
    Oct 9, 2021 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ @markvs I agree with you, Carl was way off with his comment, but that's what you get with SE sometimes $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2021 at 1:09

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