Science: Distance and Displacement

  • Distance: the measurement of the length between two points
  • Displacement: the CHANGE in an object’s position (straight line between start and end points)
  • NOTE: An object can travel a large distance and still have zero displacement
  • Distance is SCALAR (e.g. 10km) while Displacement is a VECTOR (e.g. 10km South)
  • For example: If you run a 5km on a circular course, your distance traveled is 5 kilometers, regardless of where you started and finished.
    • However, your displacement is ZERO if you finish where you started.

Distance-Over-Time Graphs

Distance Over Time Graph image

  • NOTE: in a distance-over-time graph, Distance must ALWAYS be on the Y-Axis, while Time must ALWAYS be on the X-Axis
  • If the graph is increasing, the object is IN MOTION
  • If the graph is flat-lining, the object has STOPPED
  • Distance-over-Time graphs CANNOT DECREASE!!! Only Displacement Graphs can decrease.
  • Distance-Over-Time graphs must always be above the x-axis.

Displacement Graphs

Displacement Graph image

  • NOTE: in a distance-over-time graph, Distance must ALWAYS be on the Y-Axis, while Time must ALWAYS be on the X-Axis
  • If the graph is flat-lining, the object has STOPPED
  • If the graph is increasing, the object is moving further from the origin
  • If the graph is decreasing, the object is moving closer to the origin
  • If the graph intersects the x-axis, the object is at its starting point.

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Pranav Sharma
Pranav Sharma
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Year 12 Student, site owner and developer.

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