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Vector

geometric object that has magnitude (or length) and direction
A vector

A vector is a mathematical object that has a size, called the magnitude, and a direction.

For example, a vector would be used to show the distance and direction something moved in. If you ask for directions, and a person says "Walk one kilometer towards the North", that's a vector. If he says "Walk one kilometer", without showing a direction, it would be a scalar.

We usually draw vectors as arrows. The length of the arrow is proportional to the vector's magnitude. The direction in which the arrow points is the vector's direction.

Examples of vectorsEdit

  • John walks north 20 meters. The direction "north" together with the distance "20 meters" is a vector.
  • An apple falls down at 10 meters per second. The direction "down" combined with the speed "10 meters per second" is a vector. This kind of vector is also called velocity.

Examples of scalarsEdit

  • The distance between two places is 10 kilometers. This distance is not a vector because it does not contain a direction.
  • The number of fruit in a box is not a vector.
  • A person pointing is not a vector because there is only a direction. There is no magnitude (the distance from the person's finger to a building, for example).
  • The length of an object.
  • A car drives at 100 kilometers per hour. This does not describe a vector, as there is only a magnitude, but no direction.

More examples of vectorsEdit

  • Displacement is a vector. Displacement is the distance that something moves in a certain direction. A measure of distance alone is a scalar.
  • Force that includes direction is a vector.
  • Velocity is a vector, because it is a speed in a certain direction.
  • Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity. An object is accelerating if it is changing speed or changing direction.

How to add VectorsEdit

Adding Vectors on paper using the Head to Tail methodEdit

 
Head-to-tail Addition

The Head to Tail method of adding vectors is useful for doing an estimate on paper of the result of adding two vectors. To do it:

  • Each vector is drawn as an arrow with an amount of length behind it, where each unit of length on the paper represents a certain magnitude of the vector.
  • Draw the next vector, with the tail(end) of the second vector at the head(front) of the first vector.
  • Repeat for all further vectors: Draw the tail of the next vector at head of the previous one.
  • Draw a line from the tail of the first vector to the head of the last vector - that's the resultant(sum) of all the vectors.

It's called the "Head to Tail" method, because each head from the previous vector leads in to the tail of the next one.

Using Component FormEdit

[needs to be explained]

Using the component form to add two vectors literally means adding the components of the vectors to create a new vector. For example, let a and b be two two-dimensional vectors. These vectors can be written in terms of their components.

 

 

Suppose c is the sum of these two vectors, so that c = a + b. This means that  .

Here is an example of addition of two vectors, using their component forms.

 

 

 

 
 
 

This method works for all vectors, not just two dimensional ones.

How to Multiply VectorsEdit

Using the dot productEdit

The dot product is one method to multiply vectors. It produces a scalar. It uses component form:

 

Using the cross productEdit

The cross product is another method to multiply vectors. It produces another vector. Using component form:

 

Here   means the length of   and   is the unit vector at right angles to both   and  .

Multiplying by a scalarEdit

To multiply a vector by a scalar (a normal number), you multiply the number by each component of the vector:

 

An example of this is

 

Related pagesEdit

ReferencesEdit