AQA GCSE Physics

Revision Notes

5.6.1 Distance & Displacement

Distance

  • Distance is a measure of how far an object travels
  • It is a scalar quantity – in other words, the direction is not important

300 m Race Distance, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

The athletes run a total distance of 300 m

  • Consider a 300 m race
  • From start to finish, the distance travelled by the athletes is 300 m

Displacement

  • Displacement is a measure of how far something is from its starting position, along with its direction
  • It is a vector quantity – it describes both magnitude and direction

300 m Race Displacement, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

The athletes run a total distance of 300 m, but end up 100 m from where they started

  • Consider the same 300 m race again
    • The athletes have still run a total distance of 300 m (this is indicated by the arrow in red)
    • However, their displacement at the end of the race is 100 m to the right (this is indicated by the arrow in green)
    • If they had run the full 400 m, their final displacement would be zero

Author: Jonathan

Jonathan graduated with a first-class Master's degree in Theoretical Physics from Imperial College London. He has worked in education for more than a decade as a Maths and Physics Teacher, Tutor, Head of Physics, and most recently, as Assistant Headteacher. He is now an Educational Consultant and works with us to design and improve our Physics resources.
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