Distance vs Displacement


Distance is a measure of how far someone travels, this is the total distance. Distance is only a scaler value hence you only need to provide the size of it, not the direction.

Displacement is the distance straight line distance someone travelled between point a and point b, sometimes referred to as the crow fly’s. Displacement is referred to as a vector value, hence you must provide both the size of the displacement as well as it’s direction.

The two concepts are nicely summarized in the above diagram.

Displacement is always less then or equal to the distance.


Distance: Total distance travelled (magnitude only)

Displacement: Straight line distance travelled (direction and magnitude)


Question 1. [Not an exam style question]

Describe a circumstance where distance and displacement would have the same magnitude.

Question 2. [2 marks]

A sailing boat travels 3 m North and 1.5 m South, what is their displacment.

Question 3. [3 marks]

A hiker hiked 156 m N before turning around and hiking 1.2 km South. They the walked 300 m East. What is their displacement from their initial position.

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