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Chapter 2, End of Chapter, Conceptual Questions, Exercise 1

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Distance is a scalar quantity, whereas displacement is a vector quantity.


  • Distance is the total length of the path traveled by an object. It is a scalar quantity, which means that the direction of motion does not matter. In this case, the boy walks a total of 600 meters (400 meters going to the store, plus 200 meters from the store to his friends).
  • Displacement is the change of position of an object. It tells how far and in what direction the object's final position is with respect to the initial position. It is a vector quantity, so direction matters. Assuming that east is taken to be positive, the boy has the following displacements: +400 meters (or 400 meters east) and -200 meters (or 200 meters west). To determine the total displacement, the two individual displacements are added to get a total displacement of +200 meters. This value means that the boy's final position is 200 meters east of his house.
  • The magnitude of displacement is simply the absolute value of the displacement. It tells the distance between the initial position and the final position. Since the displacement is 200 meters east, the magnitude of displacement is 200 meters.

Sample Response

A boy walks to a store 400 meters east from his house to buy his favorite ice cream. After buying ice cream, he starts walking back to his house. After walking 200 meters west, he sees some friends playing on the roadside, so he stops and plays with them. In this case, the boy walks a total distance of 600 meters. From his house, his displacement is 200 meters east and the magnitude of his displacement is 200 meters.

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