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This chapter focuses on vectors. We will learn what is a vector and how it differs from everyday numbers. We will also learn how to add, subtract and multiply them and where they appear in Physics.

Are vectors Physics? No, vectors themselves are not Physics. Physics is just a description of the world around us. To describe something we need to use a language. The most common language used to describe Physics is Mathematics. Vectors form a very important part of the mathematical description of Physics, so much so that it is absolutely essential to master the use of vectors.

Scalars and vectors

In Mathematics, you learned that a number is something that represents a quantity. For example if you have 5 books, 6 apples and 1 bicycle, the 5, 6, and 1 represent how many of each item you have.

These kinds of numbers are known as scalars .


A scalar is a quantity that has only magnitude (size).

An extension to a scalar is a vector, which is a scalar with a direction. For example, if you travel 1 km down Main Road to school, the quantity 1 km down Main Road is a vector. The “ 1 km ” is the quantity (or scalar) and the “ down Main Road ” gives a direction.

In Physics we use the word magnitude to refer to the scalar part of the vector.


A vector is a quantity that has both magnitude and direction.

A vector should tell you how much and which way .

For example, a man is driving his car east along a freeway at 100 km · h - 1 . What we have given here is a vector – the velocity. The car is moving at 100 km · h - 1 (this is the magnitude) and we know where it is going – east (this is the direction). Thus, we know the speed and direction of the car. These two quantities, a magnitude and a direction, form a vector we call velocity.


Vectors are different to scalars and therefore have their own notation.

Mathematical representation

There are many ways of writing the symbol for a vector. Vectors are denoted by symbols with an arrow pointing to the right above it. For example, a , v and F represent the vectors acceleration, velocity and force, meaning they have both a magnitude and a direction.

Sometimes just the magnitude of a vector is needed. In this case, the arrow is omitted. In other words, F denotes the magnitude of the vector F . | F | is another way of representing the magnitude of a vector.

Graphical representation

Vectors are drawn as arrows. An arrow has both a magnitude (how long it is) and a direction (the direction in which it points). The starting point of a vector is known as the tail and the end point is known as the head .

Examples of vectors
Parts of a vector


There are many acceptable methods of writing vectors. As long as the vector has a magnitude and a direction, it is most likely acceptable. These different methods come from the different methods of expressing a direction for a vector.

Relative directions

The simplest method of expressing direction is with relative directions: to the left, to the right, forward, backward, up and down.

Compass directions

Another common method of expressing directions is to use the points of a compass: North, South, East, and West. If a vector does not point exactly in one of the compass directions, then we use an angle. For example, we can have a vector pointing 40 North of West. Start with the vector pointing along the West direction: Then rotate the vector towards the north until there is a 40 angle between the vector and the West. The direction of this vector can also be described as: W 40 N (West 40 North); or N 50 W (North 50 West)

Questions & Answers

what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Physics - grade 10 [caps 2011]. OpenStax CNX. Jun 14, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11298/1.3
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