Back To Course

Physics 101 Syllabus Resource & Lesson Plans17 chapters | 179 lessons

Watch short & fun videos
**Start Your Free Trial Today**

Start Your Free Trial To Continue Watching

As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over

Your next lesson will play in
10 seconds

Lesson Transcript

Instructor:
*Richard Cardenas*

Richard Cardenas has taught Physics for 15 years. He has a Ph.D. in Physics with a focus on Biological Physics.

A vector refers to any quantity that needs a magnitude and a direction in order to fully describe the quantity. In this lesson you will learn about the properties of vectors (magnitude and direction) and how to determine what quantities are vectors and what are not vectors.

When someone tells you to throw a ball twice as hard and to the left, a vector was just used. When someone tells you to drive northeast for about five miles, a vector was just used. So what exactly is a vector? Any quantity that needs to be fully described by identifying its magnitude and direction is referred to as a **vector** quantity. By **magnitude**, we mean size of the quantity, such as length or strength. By **direction**, we mean where the vector is pointing or where it is being directed, such as left or right, north, south, east, or west, or even up or down.

When a vector is drawn, it is represented by an arrow whose length represents the vector's magnitude and whose arrow head points in the direction of the vector as shown in the figure below.

If the vector represents a quantity in one dimension--x-direction (left and right) or y-direction (up and down)--then a vector will be written as a number with a plus (+) or minus (-) sign in front of it. The plus refers to pointing right or up, and the minus refers to pointing left or down. In two dimensions (x and y), a vector will be represented with a number for magnitude and an angle for direction.

When you use your global positioning system (GPS) in your car to help you get to your destination, the GPS unit will give you two pieces of information, such as drive 300 feet and then turn left. That is an example of a vector.

During a weather report, the reporter makes use of a vector when he states that at 1:00 a.m., the wind will blow north at 12 km/h, and at 1:00 p.m. the wind is expected to blow eastward at 36 km/h. There is a magnitude (km/h) and a direction (north or east). In the picture (see video), the direction is represented by the arrow and the magnitude is represented by the speed listed below the arrow.

Another example of the use of vectors is in a treasure hunt. A typical clue might read: walk thirty paces north, then 25 paces east, then dig a hole for your next clue. The number of paces is the magnitude and the direction is north or east. You are trying to move a box to the corner of the room. You start pushing but the box does not move. When you friend tells you to push twice as hard to your left, then your friend just used a vector. She told you what magnitude you need (twice as hard) and what direction to push (to your left).

What are some non-vectors? Any quantity that is fully described by its magnitude is not a vector. For example, temperature is not a vector even though we can have negative temperatures. The negative sign does not indicate direction. Everybody would guess that -10 degrees Fahrenheit means that it's cold. Another example is mass. When you put veggies on a scale, the scale might read 100 grams. The number 100 grams gives you an idea of how much vegetables you have, there is no need for any indication of direction.

Any quantity that needs a magnitude and a direction to fully describe it is what is called a **vector** quantity. Vectors are used in everyday life, such as when you use your GPS unit to get from point A to point B. The GPS unit will give you a distance (**magnitude**) and a **direction**. A vector is, therefore, a directed quantity: a number with a direction. Both the number and the direction must be specified in order for the vector to make any sense.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.

Create your account

Already a member? Log In

BackDid you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Back To Course

Physics 101 Syllabus Resource & Lesson Plans17 chapters | 179 lessons

- What Is a Vector? - Definition & Types 5:10
- Vector Addition (Geometric Approach): Explanation & Examples 4:32
- Resultants of Vectors: Definition & Calculation 6:35
- Scalar Multiplication of Vectors: Definition & Calculations 6:27
- Vector Subtraction (Geometric): Formula & Examples 5:48
- Standard Basis Vectors: Definition & Examples 5:48
- How to Do Vector Operations Using Components 6:29
- Vector Components: The Magnitude of a Vector 3:55
- Vector Components: The Direction of a Vector 3:34
- Vector Resolution: Definition & Practice Problems 5:36
- Vector Quantity in Physics: Definition & Examples 3:42
- Go to Vectors Lesson Plans

- GATE Exam - EY (Ecology & Evolution): Test Prep & Syllabus
- GATE Exam - GG (Geology & Geophysics): Test Prep & Syllabus
- ISC Physics: Study Guide & Syllabus
- BITSAT Exam - Physics: Study Guide & Test Prep
- BITSAT Exam - English & Logic: Study Guide & Test Prep
- Studying for Economics 101
- Conduction of Electricity
- Structural Geology
- Radioactive Prospecting Methods
- Seismic Methods of Prospecting
- Roots of the Vietnam War: Learning Objectives & Activities
- Unrest in Vietnam During the Eisenhower Years: Learning Objectives & Activities
- John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War: Learning Objectives & Activities
- Vietnam War During the Nixon Years: Learning Objectives & Activities
- Major Battles & Offensives of the Vietnam War: Learning Objectives & Activities
- The Vietnam War After American Involvement: Learning Objectives & Activities
- Lyndon B. Johnson and the Vietnam War: Learning Objectives & Activities

- What Is the Northwest Passage? - Explorers, Definition & History
- How to Calculate the Break Even Point - Definition & Formula
- Types of Altruism in Psychology
- Parts of a Leaf: Lesson for Kids
- Informal Assessment Ideas for Social Studies
- Understanding Parallelogram of Forces
- Andar Conjugation: Preterite & Future Tense
- Formative Assessment Ideas for Social Studies
- Quiz & Worksheet - Macbeth as Tragic Hero
- Quiz & Worksheet - Absolute Zero
- Quiz & Worksheet - What Is Revenue in Accounting?
- Quiz & Worksheet - Trace Evidence Examination
- Quiz & Worksheet - Transition Statements in Writing
- Orchestra Instruments List & Flashcards
- Articles of Confederation Flashcards

- WEST Mathematics: Practice & Study Guide
- High School World History Textbook
- PERT: Practice & Study Guide
- MTTC Integrated Science (Elementary): Practice & Study Guide
- Assessment of Learning for Teachers
- AEPA: America in the 1980s
- Families, Religion & Schools in the US
- Quiz & Worksheet - Phototropic, Geotropic and Thigmotropic Plant Growth
- Quiz & Worksheet - Anatomy of the Limbs, Hands & Feet
- Quiz & Worksheet - Apical Meristem & Primary Shoot System Growth
- Quiz & Worksheet - Costs of Medicare and Medicaid
- Quiz & Worksheet - Characteristics of Cultural Variation

- The U.S. Attorney General: History, Role & Purpose
- The Strategic Defense Initiative: Definition & Organization
- Opportunity Cost Lesson Plan
- Free Online GED Classes
- How to Create an MCAT Study Schedule
- Free Online ACT Prep
- Scientific Revolution Lesson Plan
- Accredited Online GED Classes
- GED Test Dates
- Midnight Ride of Paul Revere Lesson Plan
- Creative Nonfiction Writing Exercises
- Finding GED Night Classes

Browse by subject