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Displacement and distance

Distance is the length of the route taken by an object. It is a scalar quantity - it has a magnitude (size) but no direction.

Displacement is a quantity measuring the change in position of an object. Displacement is the vector between the starting position and the end position. Displacement is a vector quantity (i.e. it has a magnitude and direction).

The most commonly used symbol for displacement is $$\vecphy{s}$$. The symbol $$x$$ can also be used.

The difference between distance and displacement
The difference between distance and displacement

A student walks $$10 \um$$ North, $$20 \um$$ East and finally $$10 \um$$ South.

The student travels a distance of $$\Tblue{40 \um}$$.

The student's displacement is $$\Tred{20 \um}$$ East.

Distance can never be negative. Displacement can be negative.