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Difference between Distance and Displacement

While traveling, people think about distance and displacement. These two terms are related to the length of the path. In physics also distance and displacement come when the topics speed and velocity are studied. These two terms are not similar, and they are different. Let's see the difference between these two terms.

Distance vs Displacement

What is Distance?

It is the total distance covered between two points. One point is the starting point, and another point is the ending point. The point from which we start to measure length is called the start point. The point where we stop measuring the length is called the ending point. For example, the person starts walking from home and stops at the bus stop. Here the home is the starting point, and the bus stop is the ending point. The length between these points is the distance covered by the person. Distance is a scalar quantity as only magnitude is required, direction is not needed to define it.

How to calculate distance:

Let's take an example, Jenny has gone to his friend's house, so the starting point is jenny's house, and the ending point is her friend's house. In between this point, there is a temple and playground. The distance from jenny's house to the temple is 30 meters and from temple to playground is 15 meters and from the playground to a friend's house is 20 meters. To calculate the distance, add all the lengths that jenny covers. The distance is = 30+15+20 =65. The distance covered by jenny is 65 meters to reach his friend's home.

By using speed and time, distance is calculated. The formula is distance = speed * time. If the speed is in meter per second, and time should be in seconds.

For example; if the speed is 1.5 m/s and the time required to cover the distance is 10 sec, we can find the distance by using the formula; distance = speed * time. So, here distance = 1.5m/s *10sec = 15m.

The unit of speed is must be in meters per second, and the unit of time is in seconds.

  • Speed: It is basically how fast something travels whether an object or a person.
  • Time: It is the total time required to cover the distance.

The direction of traveling is not considered while calculating the distance. Its value is zero or positive, but its value is never negative.

What is Displacement?

It refers to the change in position of an object or it is the shortest distance between the starting point and endpoint. For example, a person starts walking from point A and after 10 minutes he reaches point D, then the shortest distance between point A and D will indicate the change in the position of the person, which is called displacement. Displacement is a vector quantity, which means it has both direction and magnitude.

How to calculate displacement?

For example, a car travels 10 km towards the east then 5 km towards the south and then 10 km towards the west. In this case, although the car has travelled a total distance of 25 km, its displacement will be 5 km as it is just 5 km far from its initial position. If the car travels again 5 km towards the north it will reach its initial position, in this case, the displacement will be zero, as there is no shortest distance or change in the position available.

Displacement is calculated by using velocity and time. For example, velocity 3 m/ s and the total time taken is 60 sec, here, we can find displacement by using the formula; displacement = velocity * time (3 * 60), so, displacement is 180 m.

The unit of velocity is must be in meter per second, and the unit of time is in seconds for finding the displacement. Its value can be negative, zero or positive.

  • Velocity: Velocity is the speed of an object with the direction of motion, as such direction is important in velocity.
  • Time: It denotes the total time required to cover the path.

Difference between Distance and Displacement

Distance Displacement
It is the actual length of the path travelled between two points. The shortest distance between the starting point and endpoint.
Distance >= displacement Displacement <= distance
It is a scalar quantity. It is a vector quantity.
It is calculated by using speed. It is calculated by using velocity.
Its value can be zero or positive, but never negative. Its value can be zero, positive or negative.
The formula for calculating distance is; distance = speed * time. The formula for calculating displacement is; displacement = velocity * time.
It is denoted by 'd'. It is denoted by 'S'.

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