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Vectors operate with other scalar or vector quantities in a particular manner. Unlike scalar algebraic operation, vector operation draws on graphical representation to incorporate directional aspect.
Vector addition is, however, limited to vectors only. We can not add a vector (a directional quantity) to a scalar (a non-directional quantity). Further, vector addition is dealt in three conceptually equivalent ways :
In this module, we shall discuss first two methods. Third algebraic method will be discussed in a separate module titled Components of a vector
The resulting vector after addition is termed as sum or resultant vector. The resultant vector corresponds to the “resultant” or “net” effect of a physical quantities having directional attributes. The effect of a force system on a body, for example, is determined by the resultant force acting on it. The idea of resultant force, in this case, reflects that the resulting force (vector) has the same effect on the body as that of the forces (vectors), which are added.
It is important to emphasize here that vector rule of addition (graphical or algebraic) do not distinguish between vector types (whether displacement or acceleration vector). This means that the rule of vector addition is general for all vector types.
It should be clearly understood that though rule of vector addition is general, which is applicable to all vector types in same manner, but vectors being added should be like vectors only. It is expected also. The requirement is similar to scalar algebra where 2 plus 3 is always 5, but we need to add similar quantity like 2 meters plus 3 meters is 5 meters. But, we can not add, for example, distance and temperature.
Let us examine the example of displacement of a person in two different directions. The two displacement vectors, perpendicular to each other, are added to give the “resultant” vector. In this case, the closing side of the right triangle represents the sum (i.e. resultant) of individual displacements AB and BC .
The method used to determine the sum in this particular case (in which, the closing side of the triangle represents the sum of the vectors in both magnitude and direction) forms the basic consideration for various rules dedicated to implement vector addition.
In most of the situations, we are involved with the addition of two vector quantities. Triangle law of vector addition is appropriate to deal with such situation.
Here, the term “sequence” means that the vectors are placed such that tail of a vector begins at the arrow head of the vector placed before it.
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