How Are Vectors Used in Everyday Life?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 28, 2020 9:23:48 PM ET
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Vectors are used in everyday life to locate individuals and objects. They are also used to describe objects acting under the influence of an external force.

A vector is a quantity with a direction and magnitude. Newton's first, second and third laws are all vector relationships that accurately describe the motion of bodies under the influence of an external force. Newton's laws are far-reaching, describing objects from a ball in free fall to a rocket headed to the moon.

Using a front door as the reference point, suppose a dog bolts from the front door traveling 3 mph due east. The dog has a velocity vector with a magnitude of 3 mph and an eastbound direction. This allows matching his direction and exceeding his speed with a car. Quarterbacks use vectors to get the football to their receivers. All United States Air Force pilots rely on vectors to intercept and destroy incoming missiles. Consequently, vectors provide crucial information for locating individuals and objects.

Consider next a commercial airplane in flight. Suppose this airplane encounters a strong tail wind, pushing the plane off course. The rules of vector addition allow you to calculate the resultant vector for the airplane's speed and bearing. Without the use of vectors, airports, train stations, bus terminals and space flights would all be unmanageable.