# 2.2 Vectors, scalars, and coordinate systems

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• Define and distinguish between scalar and vector quantities.
• Assign a coordinate system for a scenario involving one-dimensional motion.

What is the difference between distance and displacement? Whereas displacement is defined by both direction and magnitude, distance is defined only by magnitude. Displacement is an example of a vector quantity. Distance is an example of a scalar quantity. A vector    is any quantity with both magnitude and direction . Other examples of vectors include a velocity of 90 km/h east and a force of 500 newtons straight down.

The direction of a vector in one-dimensional motion is given simply by a plus $\left(+\right)$ or minus $\left(-\right)$ sign. Vectors are represented graphically by arrows. An arrow used to represent a vector has a length proportional to the vector’s magnitude (e.g., the larger the magnitude, the longer the length of the vector) and points in the same direction as the vector.

Some physical quantities, like distance, either have no direction or none is specified. A scalar    is any quantity that has a magnitude, but no direction. For example, a $\text{20ºC}$ temperature, the 250 kilocalories (250 Calories) of energy in a candy bar, a 90 km/h speed limit, a person’s 1.8 m height, and a distance of 2.0 m are all scalars—quantities with no specified direction. Note, however, that a scalar can be negative, such as a $-\text{20ºC}$ temperature. In this case, the minus sign indicates a point on a scale rather than a direction. Scalars are never represented by arrows.

## Coordinate systems for one-dimensional motion

In order to describe the direction of a vector quantity, you must designate a coordinate system within the reference frame. For one-dimensional motion, this is a simple coordinate system consisting of a one-dimensional coordinate line. In general, when describing horizontal motion, motion to the right is usually considered positive, and motion to the left is considered negative. With vertical motion, motion up is usually positive and motion down is negative. In some cases, however, as with the jet in [link] , it can be more convenient to switch the positive and negative directions. For example, if you are analyzing the motion of falling objects, it can be useful to define downwards as the positive direction. If people in a race are running to the left, it is useful to define left as the positive direction. It does not matter as long as the system is clear and consistent. Once you assign a positive direction and start solving a problem, you cannot change it.

A person’s speed can stay the same as he or she rounds a corner and changes direction. Given this information, is speed a scalar or a vector quantity? Explain.

Speed is a scalar quantity. It does not change at all with direction changes; therefore, it has magnitude only. If it were a vector quantity, it would change as direction changes (even if its magnitude remained constant).

## Section summary

• A vector is any quantity that has magnitude and direction.
• A scalar is any quantity that has magnitude but no direction.
• Displacement and velocity are vectors, whereas distance and speed are scalars.
• In one-dimensional motion, direction is specified by a plus or minus sign to signify left or right, up or down, and the like.

## Conceptual questions

A student writes, “ A bird that is diving for prey has a speed of $-\mathit{\text{10}}\phantom{\rule{0.25em}{0ex}}m/s$ .” What is wrong with the student’s statement? What has the student actually described? Explain.

What is the speed of the bird in [link] ?

Acceleration is the change in velocity over time. Given this information, is acceleration a vector or a scalar quantity? Explain.

A weather forecast states that the temperature is predicted to be $-5ºC$ the following day. Is this temperature a vector or a scalar quantity? Explain.

#### Questions & Answers

Calculate the work done by an 85.0-kg man who pushes a crate 4.00 m up along a ramp that makes an angle of 20.0º20.0º with the horizontal. (See [link] .) He exerts a force of 500 N on the crate parallel to the ramp and moves at a constant speed. Be certain to include the work he does on the crate an
Collins Reply
What is thermal heat all about
Abel Reply
why uniform circular motion is called a periodic motion?.
Boniface Reply
when a train start from A & it returns at same station A . what is its acceleration?
Mwdan Reply
what is distance of A to B of the stations and what is the time taken to reach B from A
BELLO
the information provided is not enough
aliyu
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yusuf
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HENRY
there is enough information to calculate an AVERAGE acceleration
Kwok
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Kwok
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Abel
what is the unit of momentum
Abel
wha are the types of radioactivity ?
Worku Reply
what are the types of radioactivity
Worku
what is static friction
Golu Reply
It is the opposite of kinetic friction
Mark
static fiction is friction between two surfaces in contact an none of sliding over on another, while Kinetic friction is friction between sliding surfaces in contact.
MINDERIUM
I don't get it,if it's static then there will be no friction.
author
It means that static friction is that friction that most be overcome before a body can move
kingsley
static friction is a force that keeps an object from moving, and it's the opposite of kinetic friction.
author
It is a force a body must overcome in order for the body to move.
Eboh
If a particle accelerator explodes what happens
Eboh
why we see the edge effect in case of the field lines of capacitor?
Arnab
what is wave
Muhammed Reply
what is force
Muhammed
force is something which is responsible for the object to change its position
MINDERIUM
more technically it is the product of mass of an object and Acceleration produced in it
MINDERIUM
wave is disturbance in any medium
iqra
energy is distributed in any medium through particles of medium.
iqra
If a particle accelerator explodes what happens
Eboh Reply
we have to first figure out .... wats a particle accelerator first
Teh
What is surface tension
Subi Reply
The resistive force of surface.
iqra
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yusuf Reply
on both a string and peldulum?
Anya
spring*
Anya
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Jimmy
teach him SHM init
Anya
Simple harmonic motion
yusuf
how.an.equipotential.line is two dimension and equipotential surface is three dimension ?
syed Reply
definition of mass of conversion
umezurike Reply
Force equals mass time acceleration. Weight is a force and it can replace force in the equation. The acceleration would be gravity, which is an acceleration. To change from weight to mass divide by gravity (9.8 m/s^2).
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Adeshina Reply
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effiom
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Praise
Praise what level are you
yusuf
If u are doing a levels in your first year you do AS topics therefore you do 5 big topic i.e particles radiation, waves and optics, mechanics,materials, electricity. After that you do A level topics like Specific Harmonic motion circular motion astrophysics depends really
Anya
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yusuf
Heat nd Co for a level
yusuf
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Tamdy Reply
a ripple tank experiment a vibrating plane is used to generate wrinkles in the water .if the distance between two successive point is 3.5cm and the wave travel a distance of 31.5cm find the frequency of the vibration
Tamdy
hallow
Boniface
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Boniface
the range of objects and phenomena studied in physics is
Bethel Reply
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Boniface

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