centers of mass

Science Dictionary
center of mass  
A point in space determined by a distribution of mass (such as a solid object, a collection of objects, or a gas), such that a uniform force acting on the whole distribution acts as if the distribution were located at just that point. For example, the gravitational force on Earth attracts small objects as if it were pulling them from their center of mass (in this case, the center of mass is also called the center of gravity). Two stars in orbit around each other revolve around their collective center of mass. See also barycenter.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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