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Question Video: Comparing Displacements for Different Paths Science

A car is at the center of a circle. The arrows show paths that the car could travel to reach the circumference of the circle. Is the displacement of the car between its initial and final positions the same in both cases? [A] Yes [B] No

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Video Transcript

A car is at the center of a circle. The arrows show paths that the car could travel to reach the circumference of the circle. Is the displacement of the car between its initial and final positions the same in both cases? Yes or no.

Displacement between two points is the straight-line distance from one point to another in the direction of travel. In our diagram, if we mark out the start and the end of both the blue and the red arrow paths, then we know that the straight-line distance between these pairs of points is the same. They both go from the center of the circle to a point on its circumference. However, displacement includes more than just the straight-line distance between points. It also involves the direction of motion.

If the car followed the blue arrow path to the circumference of the circle, it would move in this direction, while if it followed the red arrow path, its displacement would be in this direction. These directions are not the same, and therefore the displacement of the car is not the same in both cases, either. These two possible displacements have the same magnitude but different directions. We choose answer option (B), no.

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