On the use and abuse of Newton's second law for variable mass problems

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Abstract

We clarify some misunderstandings currently found in the literature that arise from improper application of Newton's second law to variable mass problems. In the particular case of isotropic mass loss, for example, several authors introduce a force that actually does not exist.

Facultad de Ciencias Astronómicas y Geofisicas de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata
On a Fellowship from the Comisión de Investigaciones Cientificas de la Provincia de Buenos Aires.
Member of the Carrera del Investigador Cientifico del Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Técnicas de la República Argentina.