How Do You Find Displacement?


Quick Answer

Measure the overall change in the position of an object after movement comes to a stop. Distinguish displacement from distance by understanding that traveling a certain distance can leave the object very close to where it started.

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Full Answer

  1. Mark the beginning and ending points of an object's movement

    Use a graph or markers to indicate the points where an object starts moving and where it comes to rest. Do not include the distances that the object may have taken to reach that ending point; simply mark the two points.

  2. Measure the distance from beginning to ending

    Use the right angles on the graph and the principles of the Pythagorean theorem to find displacement on a graph. Square the horizontal and vertical changes on the number line, add them together, and take the square root of the sum to find the displacement. Use measuring tape to find the displacement for an object moving in real space, stretching the tape from the beginning to the ending points. Record the units measured as well as the direction, as displacement is a vector measurement, requiring both quantity and direction.

  3. Differentiate between distance and displacement

    Consider the example of a person who happens to die in the same hospital where he was born, even though he lived for decades. Remember that the distance he traveled may have been significant, but the distance and direction between the ward where he was born and the space in the hospital where he died, along with the direction from the ward to that room, represent the total displacement he experienced during his lifetime.

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