In physics, distance and displacement are used to indicate the length between two points. However, these two are not one and the same thing. While distance is the length of the actual path between two locations, displacement, on the other hand, is the length of the shortest path between two locations.
So, the distance tells us, how much path is traveled by the body, during motion and the displacement gives us an idea of how far the body is from its starting point, and that too in which direction. The difference between distance and displacement are not known to many people, so if you are also looking for it, the article might prove helpful for you take a look.
Content: Distance Vs Displacement
|Basis for Comparison
|Distance refers to the amount of space between two points, measured along the actual path, linking them.
|Displacement refers to the amount of space between the two points, measured along the minimum path linking them.
|What is it?
|Length of the total avenue traversed by the body.
|Least distance between starting and ending point.
|Gives complete information of the route followed by the body.
|Does not give complete information of the route followed by the body.
|Distance can never decrease with time.
|Displacement can decrease with time.
|Positive, Negative or Zero
|Speed × Time
|Velocity × Time
Definition of Distance
We define distance as a scalar expression; that implies how much area is covered by an object while travelling from one location to another. As a scalar measure, it takes into account the magnitude only and not the direction. So, it gives the numerical value of the amount of space between two points, at a given time, considering the actual path. The SI unit of distance is meters.
Definition of Displacement
Displacement means the change in position of someone or something, in a particular direction. It is the shortest length measured from its initial position to the final position of the moving body. It is a vector quantity, so it takes into account both magnitude and direction of the object. The magnitude of displacement refers to the linear distance between two points.
Key Differences Between Distance and Displacement
The following points explain the differences between distance and displacement:
- The amount of space between two points, measured along the actual path, which connects the two points, is called distance. The amount of space between two points, measured along the minimum path which connects them, is called displacement.
- Distance is nothing but the length of the total route travelled by the object during motion. On the other hand, displacement is the least distance between starting and finishing point.
- Distance gives the complete information of the path followed by the body. As against this, displacement does not give the complete information of the path travelled by the object.
- Displacement decreases with time, whereas distance does not decrease with time.
- The value of displacement can be positive, negative or even zero, but the value of the distance is always positive.
- Distance is a scalar measure, which takes into account the magnitude only, i.e. we need to specify only the numerical value. Unlike displacement which is a vector measure and takes into account both magnitude and direction.
- Distance covered is not the unique path, but the displacement between two locations, is the unique path.
- While distance is represented by ‘d’, displacement is labelled as ‘s’.
- Distance can be calculated by multiplying speed and time. On the contrary, the displacement can be calculated by multiplying velocity and time.
So, with the points mentioned above, you might have understood, the distance and displacement are not same at all. Distance is the actual length of the path covered by someone or something, but displacement is the length of the shortest route between the starting and ending points. So, displacement is either equal to or less than the distance between two points. Further, the reference point is used in displacement but not in distance.