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You are on page 1of 16

1. Vector Concepts

A vector is a quantity that has both magnitude and direction.

(Magnitude just means size.)

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-

tor).

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

vector).

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

are:

Volume, density, temperature, mass, speed, time, age, length,

distance, money, work and energy.

Each of these quantities has magnitude only, and do not involve

direction.

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 2

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.

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:

cates the magnitude of the vector. The direction of the vector is

represented by (not surprisingly) the direction of the arrow.

Example: Vectors

4 cm.

Vector B has the same direction as A, and has half the magnitude

(2 cm).

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 3

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:

A=D

the same magnitude (4 cm), they have different direction. They

are not equivalent.

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.

#

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.

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 4

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:

# #

OP = RS

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-

volved.

Scalar Multiplication

We can increase or decrease the magnitude of a vector by multi-

plying the vector by a scalar.

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 5

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

B = 0.5 A

vector A by the scalar 0.5.

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

length of the vector represents the magnitude) as follows:

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 6

They are vectors because they all have a direction (down) and a

magnitude.

Each of the following scalar multiples is true for this situation:

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

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

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:

# #

OA = OB

Zero Vectors

A zero vector, denoted 0, has magnitude of 0. It can have any

direction.

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

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 7

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.

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).

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

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 8

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.)

that I am moving quite quickly. My velocity is

watching. This is an example of vector addition.

We can show this on our diagram as follows:

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 9

The diagram illustrates the boost that I am getting from the river

current and demonstrates my total speed, relative to the riverbank,

of:

1 + 0.25 = 1.25 m/s.

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:

the current vector next to the tip of the swimming vector as fol-

lows:

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 10

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

vectors.

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 11

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

up).

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.

lows:

Vx = 6 units, Vy = 3 units.

commas: V = (6, 3)

Alternative Notation:

You will also see vectors written using matrix-like notation,

like this: " #

6

V=

3

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

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 12

above.

Recall that we write the magnitude of V using the vertical lines

notation kVk. We have:

q

2 2

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

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

3

tan = = 0.5

6

This gives:

from the right horizontal axis.

Lets first look at an application that involves an aircraft that is

trying to land on the runway, but it is a bit windy.

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 13

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

windsock).

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:

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 14

aircraft is pointing, in blue) and

D is the resulting direction that the aircraft takes across the

ground (in red).

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:

D=W+H

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.

We met the idea of a unit vector before in 1. Vector Concepts.

We now extend the idea for 2-dimensional vectors.

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 15

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.

Example:

Vx = 6 i

Vy = 3 j

V = 6i + 3j

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 16

U2 + V2

V

+

U2 U U

V2

V

x

U1 V1 U1 + V1

If

U = U1 i + U2 j = (U1 ,U2 )

V = V1 i + V2 j = (V1 ,V2 )

then

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

second components together.

Solution:

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