# 0.4 Gravitational field  (Page 2/3)

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Similar is the situation here. Once gravitational field strength in a region is mapped (known), we need not be concerned about the bodies which are responsible for the gravitational field. We can compute gravitational force on any mass that enters the region by simply multiplying the mass with the unit rate of gravitational force i.e. field strength,

$F=mE$

In accordance with this interpretation, we determine gravitational force on a body brought in the gravitational field of Earth by multiplying the mass with the gravitational field strength,

$⇒F=mE=mg$

This approach has following advantages :

1: We can measure gravitational force on a body without reference to other body responsible for gravitational field. In the context of Earth, for example, we compute gravitational force without any reference to the mass of Earth. The concept of field strength allows us to study gravitational field in terms of the mass of one body and as such relieves us from considering it always in terms of two body system. The effect of one of two bodies is actually represented by its gravitational field strength.

2: It simplifies mathematical calculation for gravitational force. Again referring to the context of Earth’s gravity, we see that we hardly ever use Newton’s gravitational law. We find gravitational force by just multiplying mass with gravitational field strength (acceleration). Imagine if we have to compute gravitational force every time, making calculation with masses of Earth and the body and the squared distance between them!

## Comparison with electrostatic field

There is one very important aspect of gravitational field, which is unique to it. We can appreciate this special feature by comparing gravitational field with electrostatic field. We know that the electrostatic force, like gravitational force, also follows inverse square law. Electrostatic force for two point charges separated by a linear distance, "r", is given by Coulomb's law as :

${F}_{E}=\frac{1}{4\pi {\epsilon }_{0}}\frac{Qq}{{r}^{2}}$

The electrostatic field ( ${E}_{E}$ )is defined as the electrostatic force per unit positive charge and is expressed as :

${E}_{E}=\frac{{F}_{E}}{q}=\frac{1}{4\pi {\epsilon }_{0}}\frac{Qq}{{r}^{2}}q=\frac{1}{4\pi {\epsilon }_{0}}\frac{Q}{{r}^{2}}$

The important point, here, is that electrostatic field is not equal to acceleration. Recall that Newton's second law of motion connects force (any type) with "mass" and "acceleration" as :

$F=ma$

This relation is valid for all kinds of force - gravitational or electrostatic or any other type. What we mean to say that there is no corresponding equation like "F=qa". Mass only is the valid argument of this relation. As such, electrostatic field can not be equated with acceleration as in the case of gravitational field.

Thus, equality of "field strength" with "acceleration" is unique and special instance of gravitational field - not a common feature of other fields. As a matter of fact, this instance has a special significance, which is used to state "equivalence of mass" - the building block of general theory of relativity.

We shall discuss this concept in other appropriate context. Here, we only need to underline this important feature of gravitational field.

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