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  • Define position, displacement, distance, and distance traveled.
  • Explain the relationship between position and displacement.
  • Distinguish between displacement and distance traveled.
  • Calculate displacement and distance given initial position, final position, and the path between the two.
Three people cycling along a canal. The blurred buildings in the background convey a sense of motion of the cyclists.
These cyclists in Vietnam can be described by their position relative to buildings and a canal. Their motion can be described by their change in position, or displacement, in the frame of reference. (credit: Suzan Black, Fotopedia)

Position

In order to describe the motion of an object, you must first be able to describe its position    —where it is at any particular time. More precisely, you need to specify its position relative to a convenient reference frame. Earth is often used as a reference frame, and we often describe the position of an object as it relates to stationary objects in that reference frame. For example, a rocket launch would be described in terms of the position of the rocket with respect to the Earth as a whole, while a professor’s position could be described in terms of where she is in relation to the nearby white board. (See [link] .) In other cases, we use reference frames that are not stationary but are in motion relative to the Earth. To describe the position of a person in an airplane, for example, we use the airplane, not the Earth, as the reference frame. (See [link] .)

Displacement

If an object moves relative to a reference frame (for example, if a professor moves to the right relative to a white board or a passenger moves toward the rear of an airplane), then the object’s position changes. This change in position is known as displacement    . The word “displacement” implies that an object has moved, or has been displaced.

Displacement

Displacement is the change in position of an object:

Δ x = x f x 0 , size 12{Δx=x rSub { size 8{f} } - x rSub { size 8{0} } } {}

where Δ x size 12{Δx} {} is displacement, x f size 12{x rSub { size 8{f} } } {} is the final position, and x 0 size 12{x rSub { size 8{0} } } {} is the initial position.

In this text the upper case Greek letter Δ size 12{Δ} {} (delta) always means “change in” whatever quantity follows it; thus, Δ x size 12{Δx} {} means change in position . Always solve for displacement by subtracting initial position x 0 size 12{x rSub { size 8{0} } } {} from final position x f size 12{x rSub { size 8{f} } } {} .

Note that the SI unit for displacement is the meter (m) (see Physical Quantities and Units ), but sometimes kilometers, miles, feet, and other units of length are used. Keep in mind that when units other than the meter are used in a problem, you may need to convert them into meters to complete the calculation.

The initial and final position of a professor as she moves to the right while writing on a whiteboard. Her initial position is 1 point 5 meters. Her final position is 3 point 5 meters. Her displacement is given by the equation delta x equals x sub f minus x sub 0 equals 2 point 0 meters.
A professor paces left and right while lecturing. Her position relative to Earth is given by x size 12{x} {} . The + 2 . 0 m size 12{+2 "." 0`m} {} displacement of the professor relative to Earth is represented by an arrow pointing to the right.

View of an airplane with an inset of the passengers sitting inside. A passenger has just moved from his seat and is now standing in the back. His initial position was 6 point 0 meters. His final position is 2 point 0 meters. His displacement is given by the equation delta x equals x sub f minus x sub 0 equals 4 point zero meters.
A passenger moves from his seat to the back of the plane. His location relative to the airplane is given by x size 12{x} {} . The 4 . 0 -m size 12{ - 4 "." 0"-m"} {} displacement of the passenger relative to the plane is represented by an arrow toward the rear of the plane. Notice that the arrow representing his displacement is twice as long as the arrow representing the displacement of the professor (he moves twice as far) in [link] .

Questions & Answers

a rare fraction and adjacent contraction of a sound wave are travelling in air and are separated by distance of 15cm, taken that velocity sound is 330ms what is the frequency?
Jennifer Reply
u need answer
Abbas
yes pls
Jennifer
Is ans 64/3
yuvraaj
2200hertz
chiadikaobi
what is speed and velocity
Yaseer Reply
speed is scaler quantity and velocity is vector quantity speed has only magnitude and velocity has magnitude+direction both speed and velocity has same unit m/s
shubham
I am finding it hard to draw the velocity time graph, please can anyone assist me to know how to draw it, please?
bona
explain and draw how to measure length when using ruler, micrometer screw gauge and vernnier calliper
gift Reply
Calculate the average velocity in time interval 6sec to 12sec and determine the instantaneous velocity
Lekiisi Reply
v/6
chiadikaobi
the force is not constant in this case of tow car collide for short period of time ..why is the force is not constant?
Abel Reply
hmmm
Fortune
calculate the average velocity in time interval 6sec to 12sec ad determine the instantaneous velocity
Lekiisi
meaning of the term si units
Chali Reply
what what causes electric current
Chali
what what causes electric current
Chali
Charges(electron)
Caleb
Systeme international unitq@1qa@aaq
Caleb
Correct one international system of units.
Caleb
electric dynamo
albert
Electric dynamo is the sources of electric magnetic forces which utilize electromagnetic induction.
albert
A stone is dropped down a well, if it take 5 seconds to reach the water, how dip is the well
Mollamin Reply
125m dip
chiadikaobi
an aircraft at as steady velocity of 70m/so eastwards at a height of 800me drops a package of supplies .a, how long will it take for the package to rich the ground? b, how fast will it be going as it lands?
Ng Reply
what is hypothesis theory law
Tamba
144.57m/s
chiadikaobi
physics is the science of measurement
Jide Reply
What is physics
Victor Reply
what is physics
Obaro
Good question! Physics is the study of the nature world . Does this help?
Yonn
physics is the study of matter in relations to energy.
Enoch
physics is the science of measurements
Jide
physics is a science concern with nature and properties of matter and energy
Ugomma
what is a parallelogram law of motion?
Nancy
describe how you would find the area of an irregular shaped body?
Chali
physics is the study of natural phenomena at their most fundamental level
Yaseer
Definition for physics
Adesola Reply
It deal with matter and relation to energy
Soughie
physics is the Study of matter in relation to energy.
albert
physics is a natural science that study matter its behaviour and relation to energy.
mohammed
physic tells us more about quantities and measurement also
Kelly
life as we know it that can be measured and calculated
Jesus
what is a reference frame
Chukwu Reply
what is anatomy in relation to physics
Mubarak Reply
how does half life exist
Humble Reply
 The amount of time it takes a radioactive isotope to decay into a stable isotope is different for each radioactive isotope, and is characterized by its “half-life”. An isotope's half-life is the amount of time it takes for half the number of atoms of that isotope to decay to another isotope.
Nardine
what is the difference between Mass and weight
Pjustin
mass is constant while weight varies. unit of mass is kg, unit of weight is newton
Faith
how can a coin float in water and what principle governs it
Mercy Reply
in my opinion that work of surface tension but restrictions on coin is that coin do not break surface energy of molecules but some days before scientists prove that's another types of force
Aman
which force hold floating coins together thats my confusion
Aman
Practice Key Terms 5

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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