Difference Between Scalar and Vector Quantity

Scalar and vector quantities are the two terms which are frequently used when you are a science student. Both these quantities have got their large application in the field of science and mathematics. Physics can be said to be based on the mathematics. In physics, there are many concepts that are entirely dependent on the mathematics.

Generally, a mathematical quantity that explains the motion of a body is shown under two categories namely scalar and vector quantities. You often get into the confusion between these two terms whenever you come across a problem that requires their use.  For a normal person both the quantities have the same meaning, but in the world of physics, both these quantities have a big difference. So, let’s just go through the article and understand the difference between both the terms.

Also Read:Difference Between Gauge Pressure And Absolute Pressure Explained


The Difference Between Vector And Scalar Quantities-

  •           The scalar quantity is defined as the quantity that has only got magnitude, but not directions whereas, vector quantity comprises of both magnitude and directions.
  •          The scalar quantity is only one dimensional and vector quantity is multi-dimensional.
  •          Scalar quantity changes if its magnitude changes, but vector quantity changes when magnitude or direction or both changes.
  •          There are normal algebra rules for the scalar quantity and also for vector quantity there is separate vector algebra.
  •         The scalar quantity can divide another scalar quantity, but in case of the vector quantity, two vectors cannot be divided.
  •         Some of the examples of scalar quantities are mass, volume, charge, speed, time and electric potential. The distance between the two points in the space is the scalar quantity, but not its direction. Also, velocity is a vector quantity, because it is the measure of the rate of an object changing its position.

A vector is represented by an arrow above any quantity. If a vector represents the quantity in a single direction like X-direction( left or right), y-direction ( up and down), then the vector quantity is written as the number with + or – sign in front of it. The + sign indicates the direction of quantity in the right or up direction, and – sign indicates that the vector quantity is in left or down direction. Also, in the two-dimensional space, the vector represents the magnitude and the direction.

Also Read:Difference Between Gauge Pressure And Absolute Pressure Explained

Taking an example of the vector quantity:

When you use GPS system in your car to reach your destination, the GPS gives you two information. Example – drive 400 meters and then take right, this is a vector quantity. Also, during the weather reporting, the reporter uses the vector when he or she says that at 9 pm the wind will be blowing towards the south at 10 km/h and at 10 am wind will be blowing towards the east at 30 km/h. The km/h is the magnitude and south and east are the directions.


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