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Vectors

A vector is a mathematical object that has both magnitude (a numeric value) and direction. Velocity is a vector because it has both magnitude and direction. For example, a velocity of 33 kilometers per hour (kph) southeast has a magnitude of 33 and a direction of southeast. Speed is not a vector, and direction is not a vector, but speed and direction together, modifying the same object, form a vector. Here are some other examples of vectors.

  • Displacement can be a vector when describing the location of one point with respect to another point (whether those points represent two objects, or one object in motion). For example, “New York is 500 miles north of Virginia” or “The ball rolled 3 feet to the left.”

  • Force can be a vector, since the gravitational force that pulls you toward the earth has both a magnitude and a direction.

  • Rotation, when modified with a direction, is a vector. Think of a clock hand, rotated 90° clockwise.


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