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Definition of Matter

by Ron Kurtus (revised 19 February 2016)

Matter is defined as anything that takes up space and has mass.

The property of taking up space means that an object has a measurable volume. Mass is a property of matter that indicates how much force is required to move the object.

There are also variations of matter, such as antimatter and dark matter.

Questions you may have include:

• How does matter take up space?
• What is mass?
• What are the variations of matter?

This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion

Matter takes up space

Particles of matter have size and take up space. At the very least, all matter has three dimensions: length, width and height. This is somewhat obvious when you look at various objects around you. They all take up space.

Note: There are theories that matter may consist of many more than three dimensions. Since we consist of matter, and we are also 3-dimensional objects, we cannot experience or measure other dimensions except through mathematical theories.

Measurements have been made of the diameter of various atoms and the space they take up. It is assumed that the various subatomic particles also have a physical size and take up space.

Joke:
Teacher to student: "What's matter?"
Student: "Nothing's the matter. Everything's fine."

Matter has mass

Matter has mass. But mass is difficult to define. One circular definition is that mass is how much matter there is in an object. Since mass is a very fundamental property, like distance and time, it can only be defined indirectly.

Quantities of matter will attract each other through a gravitation force related to the amount of mass in the objects. Likewise, the inertia of an object is dependent on its mass.

Typically, we use matter as a catch-all term related to objects, while we use mass to describe what happens to the matter.

Variations of matter

There are types of matter different than the ordinary forms.

Antimatter

Antimatter particles have the same mass as their corresponding subatomic particles, except that they have the opposite electrical charge and sometimes opposite spin.

Common antimatter particles are the positron, antiproton, and antineutron.

The positron has the same mass as an electron, but it has a positive (+) electrical charge instead of a negative (−) charge.

An antiproton is the same as a proton, except that it has a negative (−) electrical charge instead of a positive (+) charge.

An antineutron has a spin component in the opposite direction of a neutron. These particles are still matter.

Dark matter

Another variation of matter, called dark matter, is still a theory. Astronomical measurements indicate that some galaxies have more mass than is observed. The theory is that there exists some sort of "dark matter" that cannot be seen but that has an influence on the gravity of those galaxies.

Summary

Matter is anything that takes up space and has mass. Taking up space means that an object has a measurable volume. Mass indicates how much force is required to move the object. Variations of matter include antimatter and dark matter.

Make things matter

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Matter - Wikipedia

Matter is the Stuff Around You - Chem4Kids.com

Matter: Definition & the Five States of Matter - LiveScience.com

Physics Resources

Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

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