Distance vs Displacement – Difference and Comparison

What is Distance?

Distance can be thought of as the amount of space between two objects or points. It can also be used to describe the amount of time it takes to travel between two points.

Additionally, distance can be used in a more abstract sense to describe the separation between two things, such as two people or two ideas.

There are a variety of units of measurement that can be used to describe distance, such as feet, miles, kilometres, and light years.

The choice of unit will depend on the specific context in which the distance is being measured. For example, when measuring the distance between two cities, miles or kilometres would be used. However, when measuring the distance between stars, light years would be the more appropriate unit.

Distance can be measured in a straight line, or it can be measured along a more complex path. There are a number of ways to calculate distance, and the appropriate method will depend on the circumstances.

What is Displacement?

Displacement is the process of moving something from its original location. It can be caused by external forces, such as wind or water, or by internal forces, such as an earthquake. Displacement can also be voluntary, such as when someone moves their furniture from one room to another.

Displacement is a vector quantity, which means it has both magnitude and direction. The magnitude is the amount of movement, while the direction is the direction in which the object is moving.

Units of length like metres or kilometres are used to measure displacement. The most common unit of displacement is the meter.

Displacement is an important concept in physics, especially when studying waves. Frequency is the number of waves that pass a certain point in a certain time span, measured in units of hertz (Hz).

The displacement of a wave can also be described in terms of amplitude. The amplitude is the height of the wave from the centre line to the crest (or trough).

Difference between Distance and Displacement

  • Distance and displacement are two very important concepts in physics.
  • Distance is a scalar quantity, which means it has nothing but magnitude and no direction. This contrasts with displacement, which is a vector quantity and has both magnitude and direction.

Here are some more examples to help illustrate the difference between distance and displacement:

  • A car travel north for 5 hours. The distance the car has travelled is 5 hours multiplied by the car’s speed. The displacement of the car is 5 hours north.
  • A person walks around a circular track. The person’s distance is the length of the track. The person’s displacement is zero because, even though the person has moved, they have not changed their position relative to the starting point.
  • It is important to be able to distinguish between distance and displacement because they are often used in different equations. For example, distance is used in the equation for speed, while displacement is used in the equation for velocity. Velocity is a vector quantity that is the rate of change of displacement.
  • Distance is a scalar quantity that is the magnitude of the path taken by an object. Displacement is a vector quantity that is the magnitude and direction of the change in position of an object.

Comparison Between Distance and Displacement

Parameters of ComparisonDistanceDisplacement
Denotationds
QuantityScalarVector
Direction considerationDirection not required nor consideredDirection must be considered
FormulaSpeed x timeVelocity x time
Possible valuesDistance has only positive valuesThe values for displacement can be positive, negative or even zero

 Reference

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/1869/1/012154/meta