# 1.7 Scalar (dot) product

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Vector multiplication provides concise and accurate representation of natural laws, which involve vectors.

In physics, we require to multiply a vector with other scalar and vector quantities. The vector multiplication, however, is not an unique mathematical construct like scalar multiplication. The multiplication depends on the nature of quantities (vector or scalar) and on the physical process, necessitating scalar or vector multiplication.

The rules of vector multiplication have been formulated to encapsulate physical processes in their completeness. This is the core consideration. In order to explore this aspect, let us find out the direction of acceleration in the case of parabolic motion of a particle. There may be two ways to deal with the requirement. We may observe the directions of velocities at two points along the path and find out the direction of the change of velocities. Since we know that the direction of change of velocity is the direction of acceleration, we draw the vector diagram and find out the direction of acceleration. We can see that the direction of acceleration turns out to act in vertically downward direction.

The conceptualization of physical laws in vector form, however, provides us with powerful means to arrive at the result in relatively simpler manner. If we look at the flight of particle in parabolic motion, then we observe that the motion of particle is under the force of gravity, which is acting vertically downward. There is no other force (neglecting air resistance). Now, from second law of motion, we know that :

$\begin{array}{l}{\mathbf{F}}_{\mathrm{Resultant}}=m\mathbf{a}\end{array}$

This equation reveals that the direction of acceleration is same as that of the resultant force acting on the particle. Thus, acceleration of the particle in parabolic motion is acting vertically downward. We see that this second approach is more elegant of the two methods. We could arrive at the correct answer in a very concise manner, without getting into the details of the motion. It is possible, because Newton's second law in vector form states that net force on the body is product of acceleration vector with scalar mass. As multiplication of scalar with a vector does not change the direction of resultant vector, we conclude that direction of acceleration is same as that of net force acting on the projectile.

## Multiplication with scalar

Multiplication of a vector, A , with another scalar quantity, a, results in another vector, B . The magnitude of the resulting vector is equal to the product of the magnitude of vector with the scalar quantity. The direction of the resulting vector, however, is same as that of the original vector (See Figures below).

$\begin{array}{l}\mathbf{B}=a\mathbf{A}\end{array}$

We have already made use of this type of multiplication intuitively in expressing a vector in component form.

$\begin{array}{l}\mathbf{A}={A}_{x}\mathbf{i}+{A}_{y}\mathbf{j}+{A}_{z}\mathbf{k}\end{array}$

In this vector representation, each component vector is obtained by multiplying the scalar component with the unit vector. As the unit vector has the magnitude of 1 with a specific direction, the resulting component vector retains the magnitude of the scalar component, but acquires the direction of unit vector.

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