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SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 1

1. Vector Concepts

Magnitude and Direction of a Vector

A vector is a quantity that has both magnitude and direction.
(Magnitude just means size.)

Examples of Vector Quantities:

I travel 30 km in a Northerly direction (magnitude is 30 km,
direction is North: this is a displacement vector).
The train is going 80 km/h towards Sydney (magnitude is
80 km/h, direction is towards Sydney: it is a velocity vec-
The force on the bridge is 50 N acting downwards (the mag-
nitude is 50 Newtons and the direction is down: it is a force

Other examples of vectors include:

Acceleration, momentum, angular momentum, magnetic and
electric fields.
Each of the examples above involves magnitude and direction.
Note: A vector is not the same as a scalar. Scalars have magni-
tude only. For example, a speed of 35 km/h is a scalar quantity,
since no direction is given. Other examples of scalar quantities
Volume, density, temperature, mass, speed, time, age, length,
distance, money, work and energy.
Each of these quantities has magnitude only, and do not involve
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Vector Notation
We will use a bold letter to name vectors. For example, a force
vector could be written as F.
If a vector goes from initial point P to terminal point Q, it can
also be written as PQ.

Alternative Vector Notation:

Some textbooks write vectors using an arrow above the vector
name, like this: F
It is not easy to make bold letters with a pen or marker, so
when we use hand writing we will also use an arrow above
the vector name:

A vector is drawn using an arrow. The length of the arrow indi-

cates the magnitude of the vector. The direction of the vector is
represented by (not surprisingly) the direction of the arrow.

Example: Vectors

The displacement vector A has direction up and a magnitude of

4 cm.
Vector B has the same direction as A, and has half the magnitude
(2 cm).
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Vector C has the same magnitude as A (4 units), but it has differ-

ent direction.
Vector D is equivalent to vector A. It has the same magnitude
and the same direction. It does not matter that A is in a different
position to D, they are still considered to be equivalent vectors
because they have the same magnitude and same direction. We
can write:

Note: We cannot write A = C because even though A and C have

the same magnitude (4 cm), they have different direction. They
are not equivalent.

Free and Localized Vectors

So far we have seen examples of free vectors. We draw them
without any fixed position.
Another way of representing vectors is to use directed line seg-
ments. This means the vector is named using an initial point and
a terminal point. Such a vector is called a localized vector.

Example: Localized Vectors

A vector OP has initial point O and terminal point P. When using
directed line segments, we still use an arrow for the drawing, with
P at the arrow end. The length of the line OP is an indication of
the magnitude of the vector.

We could have another vector RS as follows. It has initial point R
and terminal point S.
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Because the 2 vectors have the same magnitude and the same di-
rection (they are both horizontal and pointing to the right), then
we say they are equal. We would write:
# #

Note that we can move vectors around in space and as long as

they have the same vector magnitude and the same direction, then
they are considered equal vectors.

Magnitude of a Vector
We indicate the magnitude of a vector using vertical lines on
either side of the vector name.
# # #
The magnitude of vector OP is written | OP| or k OPk.
(When we use vertical lines like this with a number, it is called
absolute value, and is a similar concept to magnitude.)
So for example, vector A above has magnitude 4 units. We would
write the magnitude of vector A as

kAk = 4

Scalar Quantities
A scalar quantity has magnitude, but not direction.
For example, a pen may have length 10 cm. The length 10 cm
is a scalar quantity: it has magnitude, but no direction is in-

Scalar Multiplication
We can increase or decrease the magnitude of a vector by multi-
plying the vector by a scalar.
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Example: Scalar Multiplication (1)

In the examples we saw earlier, vector B (2 units) is half the size

of vector A (which is 4 units). We can write:
B = 0.5 A

This is an example of a scalar multiple. We have multiplied the

vector A by the scalar 0.5.

Example: Scalar multiplication (2)

We have 3 weights tied to a beam. The first weight is W1 = 5 N,

the second is W2 = 2 N, and the third is W3 = 4 N.

We can represent these weights using a vector diagram (where the

length of the vector represents the magnitude) as follows:
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They are vectors because they all have a direction (down) and a
Each of the following scalar multiples is true for this situation:

Since 5 = 2.5 2, we can write: W1 = 2.5 W2

Since 2 = 0.5 4, we can write: W2 = 0.5 W3
Since 4 = 0.8 5, we can write: W3 = 0.8 W1

Each of these statements is a scalar multiplication.

Vectors in Opposite Directions

We have 2 teams playing a tug-of-war match. At the beginning
of the game, they are very evenly matched and are pulling with
equal force in opposite directions. We could name the vectors OA
and OB.
We can represent the tug of war using a vector diagram:

We note that the magnitude of each vector is the same, but they
are acting in opposite directions. In such a case, we indicate the
opposite directions by use of a negative sign.
So we write:
# #

Zero Vectors
A zero vector, denoted 0, has magnitude of 0. It can have any
In the tug-of-war example above, the teams are evenly matched at
a certain instant and neither side is able to move. In this case, we
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would have
# #
OA + OB = 0
# #
The 2 force vectors OA and OB, operating in opposite directions,
cancel each other out.

Unit Vectors
A unit vector has length 1 unit and can take any direction.
A one-dimensional unit vector is usually written i.

Example: Unit Vector

In the following diagram, we see the unit vector (in red, labelled i)
and two other vectors that have been obtained from i using scalar
multiplication (2i and 7i).

2. Vector Addition (1-dimensional


Adding 1-dimensional vectors

I am swimming downstream in a river. The speed of the river
current is 0.25 m/s, as indicated by the length and direction of the
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blue arrow in the vector diagram.

I swim downstream at the rate of 1 m/s, as indicated by the dark

red arrow below. (It is 4 times the length of the river current vec-
tor, indicating that my swimming velocity is 4 times the velocity
of the river current.)

Our friends are on the riverbank watching me swim. They observe

that I am moving quite quickly. My velocity is

1 + 0.25 = 1.25 m/s.

The river is helping me to move quickly relative to the people

watching. This is an example of vector addition.
We can show this on our diagram as follows:
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The equivalent vector (1.25 m/s downstream) is shown in pink:

The diagram illustrates the boost that I am getting from the river
current and demonstrates my total speed, relative to the riverbank,
1 + 0.25 = 1.25 m/s.

The Return Journey (Subtraction of vectors):

To get back to my friends, I need to swim against the current so
my speed relative to the people who are watching me will be less.
My velocity relative to the river bank is now:

1 0.25 = 0.75 m/s.

The 2 vectors are now acting in opposite directions.

An equivalent way of drawing our 2 vectors is to put the tail of

the current vector next to the tip of the swimming vector as fol-
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My velocity relative to the people watching (0.75 m/s, upstream)

is shown in pink:

3. Vectors in 2 Dimensions
So far we have considered 1-dimensional vectors only.
Now we extend the concept to vectors in 2-dimensions. We can
use the familiar x-y coordinate plane to draw our 2-dimensional

The vector V shown above is a 2-dimensional vector drawn on the

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x-y plane.
The vector V is acting in 2 different directions simultaneously
(to the right and in the up direction). We can see that it has an
x-component (6 units to the right) and a y-component (3 units

Components of Vectors
Reading from the diagram above, the size of the x-component of
the vector V is 6 units.
The size of the y-component of the vector V is 3 units.

We can write these vector components using subscripts as fol-

Vx = 6 units, Vy = 3 units.

We can write a vector as the list of its components separated by

commas: V = (6, 3)

Alternative Notation:
You will also see vectors written using matrix-like notation,
like this: " #

Magnitude of a 2-Dimensional Vector

The magnitude of a vector is simply the length of the vector. We
can use Pythagoras Theorem to find the length of the vector V
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Recall that we write the magnitude of V using the vertical lines
notation kVk. We have:

2 2
Magnitude of V = kVk = 6 + 3 = 45 = 6.71 units.

Direction of a 2-Dimensional Vector

To describe the direction of the vector, we normally use degrees
(or radians) from the horizontal, in an anti-clockwise direction.
We use simple trigonometry to find the angle. In the above ex-
ample, we know the opposite (3 units) and the adjacent (6 units)
values for the angle () we need.

So we have
tan = = 0.5
This gives:

= arctan 0.5 = 26.6 ( = 0.464 radians).

So our vector has magnitude 6.71 units and direction 26.6 up

from the right horizontal axis.

4. Adding Vectors (in 2 Dimensions)

Lets first look at an application that involves an aircraft that is
trying to land on the runway, but it is a bit windy.
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Example: Crosswind landing

In this problem we are approaching the airport in an aircraft that is

flying through the air at 120 kt. We say its airspeed is 120 kt.
(Note: kt = knot, or nautical mile per hour, is the official metric
unit for speed in aircraft).
There is a strong Westerly crosswind of 30 kt (as indicated by the
If we point the nose of the aircraft directly at the airport, we will
be pushed by the wind away from the landing strip.
In the diagram:

W is the wind vector (in black),

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H is the heading of the aircraft (the direction the nose of the

aircraft is pointing, in blue) and
D is the resulting direction that the aircraft takes across the
ground (in red).

Pointing the nose directly at the airport is not a good option. We

clearly need to point the nose into the wind so that we go straight
to the landing area.
Now the aircraft is pointing into the crosswind, so now we are go-
ing where we want to go (directly towards the landing area).
What we have seen in this crosswind landing example is addition
of vectors. We added the W (wind) vector with the H (heading)
vector to give us our resultant vector D (where the aircraft actu-
ally goes, relative to the ground). We could write this as:

The parallelogram is an alternative method to using triangles. If

we add the blue (heading) vector and the black (wind) vector the
resultant vector is the red ground direction vector. In the image,
the ground direction is due north.

Unit Vectors and Components of a Vector (2-D)

We met the idea of a unit vector before in 1. Vector Concepts.
We now extend the idea for 2-dimensional vectors.
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The diagram shows a unit vector in the x-direction (called vector

i) and another in the y-direction (called vector j).
We can write any 2-dimensional vector in terms of the unit vectors
i and j.


In an earlier example, we had the following vector:

We could write the components of the vector V as follows:

Vx = 6 i
Vy = 3 j

So we can write the vector V using unit vectors as follows:

V = 6i + 3j
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Adding Vectors using Components

U2 + V2
U2 U U

U1 V1 U1 + V1


U = U1 i + U2 j = (U1 ,U2 )
V = V1 i + V2 j = (V1 ,V2 )


U + V = (U1 + V1 ) i + (U2 + V2 ) j = (U1 + V1 ,U2 + V2 )

That is, we add the first components together, and add the
second components together.

Example: Let U = 3 i + 4 j and V = 2 i 2 j. Find U + V.