Special & General Relativity Questions and Answers
Is the gravity of distant objects the cause of inertia?
We do not really know. General relativity and Mach's Principle seem to suggest that this is true. Recently, a group of physicists have speculated that inertia arises from charged matter ( electrons atoms etc) moving through the physical vacuum which acts differently along the direction of motion and behind the particle so that inertai is actually a quantum machanical effect produced locally, not by distant matter.
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All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the NASA Astronomy Cafe, part of the NASA Education and Public Outreach program.