A Lot of Mass and Weight


Failaka Island, Kuwait            

Failaka Island, Kuwait

Failaka island in Kuwait isn’t very big.

Stood shoulder-to-shoulder, however, the entire population of China (over 1 billion people) could fit on it. Neglecting the fact that the ones in the middle would be incinerated by the heat, thus combustion gases would decrease the mass, this still represents an awful lot of stuff. Which is, of course what mass is. Amount of stuff. Measured in kilograms. If the mass of one Chinese person is, on average, 50kg, this means that Failaka island would have 50 billion kg of extra mass on it. The Earth pulls each kilogram towards its centre with a force of about 10N,  – we call this the pull of gravity – so the weight of all those people would be 50 billion x 10N or 500 billion N – about the same weight as TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY STARSHIPS (if Captain Kirk’s figuring is accurate). Go ahead. Check out the link. More than enough to destroy the whole Klingon Empire….

Do you think the island would sink under all that weight?

I have a mass of about 80kg on Earth, which means I have a weight of about 800N. The pull of the Earth determines my weight, but what about the pull on other places?  Go here and fill in your weight in N. The site will tell you what you’d weigh elsewhere in our Solar System and in other places too. (If you want to do it again, you have to reload the page.) Your mass, of course, wouldn’t change, you’d still be you, even on Mars. If you had long, spindly legs like a giraffe, could you survive on Jupiter?

The little bubble in the picture is me. Shouting for help.


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