Motion and Its Causes


What is displacement and how does it differ from distance?

The examples above involved only distance, not direction from the reference location. Distance has only a magnitude, or size. In the example of a house, the magnitude of the distance of the house with respect to 1st Avenue is 160 feet. Displacement has both a magnitude and direction, so the displacement of the house from 1st Avenue is 160 feet west. Or, you define west as the positive direction (because house numbers are increasing when you go west). Then the house’s displacement from the reference location, 1st Avenue and Main Street, could be written as 160 feet. A quantity like this that has both a magnitude and a direction is called a vector.


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