Position, Displacement, and Direction

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AP Physics Unit 2

Storyboard Text

  • 6 m
  • 13 m
  • -19 m
  • Before practice one day, Ralph and Jack are kicking a soccer ball across a line on the field. 
  • Ralph is 13 meters to the right of the line, whereas Jack is 6 m to the left of the line. This means that Ralph's position is at 13 m and Jack's position is at -6 m. Position is the exact location of something relative to a reference point. Direction is also shown by the position being positive or negative.
  • If the ball starts with Ralph and is passed to Jack, the ball's new position will be at -6 m. This means that the ball has been displaced -19 m.
  • However, if the ball is passed to Jack, but is then passed back to Ralph, then the total displacement is 0 because the starting and ending points have the same position. Displacement is the difference between the starting and ending points, and it shows how much the position has changed from start to finish. It shows direction by being positive or negative.
  • At one point, Ralph makes a bad pass to Jack and the ball goes to the position, -12 m. This means that the displacement from Ralph is 27 m.
  • 12 m
  • Ralph and Jack pass the ball back and forth twice. The ball starts with Jack and he passes the ball to Ralph, who passes it back again. This then repeats again. Because the ball moved between them a total of 4 times, the total distance the ball traveled is 76 m. Distance is how far something travels during its entire trip. Direction does not matter when finding distance.
  • 12 m
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