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SI units and their prefixes

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SI units and their prefixes

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Vectors and scalars

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Displacement and velocity
A runner completes one lap of
an athletics track.
What distance has she run?
400 m
What is her final displacement?
If she ends up exactly where she
started, her displacement from
her starting position is zero.
What is her average velocity for
the lap, and how does it
compare to her average speed?

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Vector equations
An equation is a statement of complete equality. The left
hand side must match the right hand side in both quantity and
units. In a vector equation, the vectors on both sides of the
equation must have equal magnitudes and directions.
Take Newtons second law, for example:

force = mass acceleration

Force and acceleration are both vectors, so their directions


will be equal. Mass is a scalar: it scales the right-hand side
of the equation so that both quantities are equal.
Force is measured in newtons (N), mass in kilograms (kg),
and acceleration in ms-2. The units on both sides must be
equal, so 1 N = 1 kgms-2.

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Scalar or vector?

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Displacement vectors
Harry and Sally are exploring the desert. They need to
reach an oasis, but choose to take different routes.

Harry travels due north,


then due east.
N
Sally simply travels in a
straight line to the oasis.

When Harry met Sally at the oasis, they had travelled


different distances. However, because they both reached
the same destination from the same starting point, their
overall displacements were the same.

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Vector notation
A scalar quantity is often represented by a lower case letter,
e.g. speed, v. A vector quantity can also be represented by a
lower case letter, but it is written or printed in one of the
following formats to differentiate it from the scalar equivalent:

y
The value of a vector can
be written in magnitude 6
and direction form:
e.g. v = (v, )
a
Or as a pair of values
called components:
8 8 x
e.g. a = (8, 6) or
6
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Vector addition
Displacement vectors can always be added nose to tail to
find a total or resultant vector.
y b
This can be done approximately
by scale drawing:
a
10
a+b
7 x

It can also be done by calculation, breaking each vector


down into perpendicular components first and then adding
these together to find the components of the resultant:

2 -2 0
c+d = + =
3 2 5

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Calculating a resultant
When adding two perpendicular vectors, it is often necessary
to calculate the exact magnitude and direction of the
resultant vector. This requires the use of Pythagoras
theorem, and trigonometry.
For example, what is the resultant vector of a vertical
displacement of 3 km and a horizontal displacement of 4 km?
magnitude: direction:

R R2 = 32 + 42 tan = 4/3
4 km R = 3 2 + 42 = tan-1(4/3)
= 25 = 53

= 5 km
3 km
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Resultant vectors

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Vector components
Just as it is possible to add two vectors together
to get a resultant vector, it is very often
useful to break a diagonal vector
into its perpendicular
components.

This makes it
easier to describe
the motion of an
object, and to do vertical
any relevant component
calculations. horizontal
component

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Calculating components
A vector can be separated into perpendicular components
given only its magnitude and its angle from one of the
component axes. This requires the use of trigonometry.

For example, what are the horizontal and vertical components


of a vector with a magnitude of 6 ms-1 and a direction of 60
from the horizontal?

cos60 = x / 6 sin60 = y / 6
6 ms-1
x = 6 cos60 y = 6 sin60
y
= 3 ms-1 = 5.2 ms-1
60

x
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Vector components

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Velocity components

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Understanding vectors

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Glossary

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Whats the keyword?

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Multiple-choice quiz

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