DISTANCE AND DISPLACEMENT

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DISTANCE AND DISPLACEMENT

DISTANCE AND DISPLACEMENT

Distance and displacement are two quantities that may seem to mean the same thing yet have distinctly different definitions and meanings.

·    Distance is a scalar quantity that refers to “how much ground an object has covered” during the motion.

·   Displacement is a vector quantity that refers to “how far an object is as compared to the starting point.”

It is the object’s overall change in position.

Let’s consider the motion depicted in the diagram.

I walk 4 meters East, 2 meters South, 4 meters West, and finally 2 meters North.

Even though I walked a total distance of 12 meters, my displacement is 0 meters. During the course of my motion, I “covered 12 meters of ground” (distance = 12 m). Yet when I is finished walking, I am at the same point where I started, so there is no displacement for my motion (displacement = 0 m).