The difference between distance and displacement is one of the most frequently asked and perplexing questions in the field of physics. To comprehend the distinctions, it is necessary to be well-versed in their underlying concepts. Understanding these differences will be made easier by understanding the concepts of distance and displacement.
What is distance?
Distance is defined as the length of the path between two points. It has only one dimension: magnitude. It measures the actual amount of ground covered by an object. Distance is a scalar quantity as it has no direction. The formula of distance is
d = √(x2 – x1)2 + (y2 – y1)2
Here, (x1, y1) are coordinates of first point and (x2, y2) are coordinates of second point. The unit of distance is meter.
What is displacement?
Displacement is a vector quantity which is measured in relation to a fixed point. From the starting point to the end point, it is a straight perpendicular line. As a result, it is also the shortest distance between two points. The formula of displacement is
S = v x t
Here v is velocity and t is the time taken by object. The unit of displacement is same as that of distance.
When displacement is negative or positive?
When the displacement vector is away from the reference point, it is often defined as positive, and when it is toward the reference point, it is often defined as negative.
When displacement is zero?
If the object begins and ends in the same position, the average displacement will be equal to zero.
In oscillation analysis, the term displacement is used. The oscillator’s equilibrium position is the reference point. Displacements above the equilibrium are considered as positive, while displacements below the equilibrium position are taken as negative.
What is the difference between distance and displacement?
- Distance is defined as the complete length of path between any two points, with symbol “d”. Whereas displacement is defined as the minimum path or the perpendicular path between two points, with symbol “s”.
- Distance is a scalar quantity while displacement is a vector quantity.
- Direction is involved in definition of displacement, not is distance.
- Distance tells about a long rout followed by object while displacement is only concerned with the shortest distance between two points.
- Distance can only has positive value while displacement can be negative, positive or even zero.
- Displacement can only be measured for a straight path while distance can be for any irregular path.
- Distance is dependent on the path followed while displacement is only dependent of initial and final points, between which a body travelled.
These are the main distinctions that can help you differentiate between the two. Apart from knowing these distinctions , it is also advisable to be well-versed in their related concepts and have a firm grasp on the fundamentals.