What Are Examples of Scalars and Vectors?

Examples of scalar measurements in physics include time, temperature, speed and mass, whereas examples of vectors consist of velocity, acceleration and force. Scalars describe one-dimensional quantities that are measured with just one property. Vectors need two or more different types of measurements to describe a certain quantity.

Time is a scalar that needs just one measurement to describe a quantity of seconds, minutes, hours or days. Mass is described by ounces, pounds or tons. The motion of an aircraft can be described by vectors pertaining to displacement, direction, acceleration and velocity. An airplane travels in a direction using many different scalar quantities such as speed, mass, energy and work. Direction of travel is what makes the airplane’s motion a vector.

Some measurements can be confusing as to whether they are scalars or vectors. Mass is a scalar, but weight is a vector because there is direction based upon gravitational forces. Speed is a scalar measurement but velocity is a vector because it includes the direction an object travels.

Vector diagrams are shown on paper as lines with an arrow showing direction. The length of the line determines the strength of the vector. Short vectors are not as powerful as long vectors.