Scalars and Vectors

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Scalars & Vectors

A quantity that has only a magnitude and does not have any specific direction in space is called a scalar. On the other hand, a quantity that has both a magnitude and a direction is called a vector.

Examples of scalar quantities are mass, length, volume, electric potential and energy. Likewise, examples of vector quantities include displacement, force, velocity and acceleration.

What is a vector?

A vector is a mathematical quantity that possesses two independent properties: magnitude and direction. Its length (or magnitude) shows its position in a set of coordinates, while the direction indicates the movement from point A to point B.

Historically, vectors have been used in geometry and physics to represent quantities that have both a magnitude and a direction, such as displacements, forces, and velocity. In mathematics, vectors are also considered in the context of some elements of a variety of vector spaces, such as extension fields, polynomial rings, algebras and function spaces.

In general, a vector space is a set equipped with the operations component-wise addition and scalar multiplication of vectors. In particular, the natural structure of a vector space is defined by these operations on geometric vectors and tuples.

What is a scalar?

A scalar is a quantity that has a magnitude or size. Examples of scalar quantities include volume, density, speed, energy, mass, and time.

Scalars can be added and subtracted just like numbers. They also obey the usual rules of algebra and are often used in calculations involving vectors.

A vector has both a magnitude and a direction, and can be represented geometrically by an arrow of length proportional to its magnitude pointing in the specified direction. Examples of vectors are velocity, acceleration, force, and electric field.


Displacement is a type of scalar quantity that affects distance and velocity. When an object is moving, its displacement measures the shortest distance between its starting and ending positions.

This means that the size of displacement may be much greater than the distance it has travelled along its path. This is because the distance traveled does not take into account the direction an object is moving in.

To find the total displacement of a person, we must first know her position vector. This is the arrow that points from her initial position (x0) to her final position (xf).


Velocity is a vector quantity. It is defined by both magnitude and direction, unlike distance which only has a magnitude.

When an object is moving, it has a constant velocity (the total amount of time the object travels per unit of time). But if the object changes direction or speeds up, then its velocity can change.

If you’re interested in learning more about scalars and vectors, check out these physics reviews from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

A scalar is any physical quantity with only a magnitude, such as distance, temperature, speed, weight, energy, work, etc. A vector is any quantity that has both a magnitude and a direction, like force, field strength, and momentum.


In physics, acceleration has both magnitude and direction. It forms a key part of Newton’s second law of motion.

An object may accelerate even if its speed is constant, especially in circular motion. This is called centripetal acceleration.

We know that acceleration is a vector quantity because it has both magnitude and direction. As such, it must be described using directional adjectives.

Scalars and Vectors

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