Problem: An indecisive car goes 120 m North, then 30 m south then 60m North. What is the car's distance and displacement?
Distance is the total amount traveled. Thus distance = 120 + 30 + 60 m = 210 m
Displacement is the amount displaced from the starting position. Thus displacement = 120 - 30 + 60 m = 150 m.
Watch this Explanation
Time for Practice
- What is the difference between distance and displacement Write a few sentences explaining this.
- Does the odometer reading in a car measure distance or displacement?
- Imagine a fox darting around in the woods for several hours. Can the displacement of the fox from his initial position ever be larger than the total distance he traveled? Explain.
- Your brother borrowed the scissors from your room and now you want to use them. Do you care about the distance the scissors have traveled or their displacement? Explain your answer.
- You’re trying to predict how long it’s going to take to get to Los Angeles for the long weekend. Do you care about the distance you’ll travel or your displacement? Explain your answer.
1. discuss in class
3. No, displacement is 'as the crow flies' so to speak, while distance takes into account the curves and turns that the fox takes.