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JoVE Science Education
Physics I

Vectors in Multiple Directions

Source : Nicholas Timmons, Antonella Cooray, Ph.d., département de physique & astronomie, école de Sciences physique, University of California, Irvine, CA

Cette expérience montre comment les vecteurs addition et soustraction dans de multiples directions. L’objectif sera de calculer analytiquement l’addition ou la soustraction de vecteurs multiples puis confirmer expérimentalement les calculs.

Un vecteur est un objet avec grandeur et direction. L’ampleur d’un vecteur est simplement désigné comme la longueur, tandis que la direction est généralement définie par l’angle qu’il passe avec l’axe des *x*. Parce que les forces sont des vecteurs, il peuvent servir comme une représentation physique des vecteurs. Par la mise en place d’un système de forces et de trouver quel force supplémentaire permettra de créer un équilibre entre les forces, un système de vecteurs peut être vérifié expérimentalement.

1. l’équilibre des forces. Sur la table de force, mis en place deux poulies avec la même masse, face à des directions opposées (180° de différence dans l’angle). La force de chacun sera égale à . Vérifiez si les deux forces sont égale et opposée, en examinant l’anneau au centre de la table de la force, qui ne doit pas bouger. Notez que si les composantes des vecteurs associés à ces forces sont ajou…

The results of the lab are shown in **Table 1** and **Table 2**.

**Table 1. Setup.**

Setup # | A | B | ||

Mass | Angle | Mass | Angle | |

1 | 100 | 0 | 100 | 20 |

2 | 100 | 0 | 150 | 40 |

3 | 200 | 0 | 150 | 60 |

4 | 200 | 0 | 250 | 80 |

**Table 2. Analytical Results. **

Setup # | Magnitude (N) |
Magnitude (N) |
Angle (°) |
Magnitude (N) |
Angle (°) |

1 | 0.98 | 0.98 | 20 | 1.93 | 10 |

2 | 0.98 | 1.47 | 40 | 2.31 | 24 |

3 | 1.96 | 1.47 | 60 | 2.98 | 25 |

4 | 1.96 | 2.45 | 80 | 3.39 | 45 |

**Table 3. Experimental Results.**

Setup # | Experimental Magnitude (N) |
Analytical Magnitude (N) |
Difference (%) |
Experimental Angle (°) |
Analytical Angle (°) |
Difference (%) |

1 | 2.1 | 1.93 | 9 | 11 | 10 | 10 |

2 | 2.2 | 2.31 | 5 | 26 | 24 | 8 |

3 | 2.8 | 2.98 | 6 | 28 | 25 | 12 |

4 | 3.5 | 3.39 | 3 | 43 | 45 | 5 |

The results of the experiment are in agreement with the analytical calculations. The sum of two vectors and the angle between them can be calculated using **Equations 1-5**. The equations are valid for making calculations of physical vectors, such as force.

An outfielder in baseball has to understand vectors in order to catch a ball on the move. If the outfielder only knew the speed of the ball, he might run to leftfield instead of to right and miss the ball. If he only knew the direction of the hit, he might charge in, only to watch the ball sail over his head. If he understands vectors, then as soon as the ball is hit, he can consider both the magnitude and direction in order to estimate where the ball is going to be when he makes a catch.

When an airplane is in the sky, its speed and direction can be written as a vector. When there is a heavy wind, the wind vector adds to the vector of the plane to give the resultant system vector. For example, if a plane is flying into the wind, the magnitude of the resultant vector will be less than the initial magnitude. This corresponds to the plane moving slower when heading into the wind, which makes intuitive sense.

When two objects collide and stick together, their final momentum (a vector) can be approximated as the sum of the two initial momentum vectors. This is a simplification, as in the real world, two objects colliding have extra factors to consider, like heat or deformation from the collision. Momentum is just the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity. If two skaters on ice traveling in different directions and at different speeds collide and hold onto each other, their final direction and speed can be estimated based upon their initial vector components.

In this experiment, the vector nature of forces was examined and measured. Vectors were added together, and the resultant magnitude and direction were determined both analytically and experimentally.

Vectors are quantities with both magnitude and direction-unlike scalars, which have only a magnitude and sign.

Force, acceleration, and velocity are examples of vectors. While mass, energy, and time, are examples of scalars.

A vector is usually represented by an arrow. The arrow’s length corresponds to its magnitude and the angle indicates direction.

This video will show a system of forces that can be analyzed with vector addition and subtraction, and demonstrate how such operations produce results that are important for understanding several physical phenomena.

Describing a vector requires a coordinate system. Within this chosen frame of reference, this example of a ball kicked into the air has an initial velocity vector. As explained earlier, the length of the arrow represents the magnitude of the velocity. And the direction of the vector is its angle from the ground.

Any vector may be decomposed into components, which are vectors themselves along the x- and y-axes. If the ball’s initial velocity is 20 meters per second at 60 degrees, the horizontal component is speed times cosine of 60 degrees and has a magnitude of 10 meters per second. The vertical component is speed times sine of 60 degrees and has a magnitude of about 17.3 meters per second.

Vector addition of horizontal and vertical components reconstructs the original velocity vector. To add vectors, imagine placing the head of one to the tail of the other. In this example the vectors happen to be at a right angle. The sum results when traveling directly from the tail of the first to the head of the second.

These components are at a right angle, so the magnitude of the sum is given by the Pythagorean theorem. The angle is the arctangent of the vertical component divided by the horizontal component.

When adding two vectors that are not perpendicular, decompose each into x- and y-components then add corresponding components. Finally, calculate the vector sum of horizontal and vertical components as explained before. Subtracting one vector from another is equivalent to negating the second vector and adding it to the first. As before, decompose each vector into x- and y-components. Then subtract the smaller x-component from the larger one and do the same for y-components. Then, same as before, calculate the vector sum of the resulting x- and y-components.

To demonstrate the addition and subtraction of vectors in a physics lab, the equipment commonly used is a force table. This is a disk with angles marked around the perimeter, a ring in the center attached to cords with masses at the other end suspended by pulleys. The masses produce forces, which are the vectors to be studied. The force along each cord is equal to the gravitational force, or mg, with units of Newtons.

Now, in this set-up, if there are just two equal masses at 180 degrees from each other, then they produce forces with a vector sum of zero. This condition is called equilibrium, which results in zero acceleration and thus the ring won’t move.

But if the two forces pulling the ring do not cancel each other, for example due to change in angle, then the non-zero net force would cause the ring to move. In such instances, if we know the magnitudes and directions of these forces, then we can use vector addition and subtraction to calculate the third force needed to re-establish equilibrium.

In the next section we will show how to conduct such force table experiments that test the theoretical principles of vector addition and subtraction

If the two forces are equal and opposite, the ring at the center of the table should not move. In this case, each force vector exactly opposes the other in magnitude and direction. The vector sum has zero magnitude, which is the condition of zero net force, or equilibrium.

To validate the principles of vector addition and subtraction, set up the masses and angles for forces A and B as indicated on the first line of this table. Keep the angle for A at zero degrees. Now, set up the third force by adding masses and changing the angle until the ring does not move.

After achieving equilibrium, calculate the force of C by multiplying its mass by the acceleration due to gravity. Also, record the magnitude and angle for force C.

Repeat this test for the three different cases and record the magnitude and angle of force C each time.

For the four experimental set-ups, this table shows the calculated magnitudes of forces A and B, and angles of B with respect to A. Using the first set-up as an example, we can calculate force C needed to establish equilibrium on the table.

Here force A has a magnitude of 0.98 Newtons at 0°. Force B has the same magnitude of 0.98 Newtons but an angle of 20°. To determine the vector for C, decompose forces A and B into their x- and y-components. Note force A is directed only along the x-axis and has no y-component. Then add the components to yield the x- and y-vectors, which are the sum of A and B vectors.

To achieve equilibrium, the x- and y-components of C must be the opposite of these vectors. To obtain the vector C, move the tail of its y-component to the head of the x-component. Then add the two vectors using the Pythagorean theorem to find the magnitude of vector C. And the angle for C is the arctangent of the vertical component divided by the horizontal component. Therefore, the calculated magnitude of C turns out to be 1.93 Newtons at an angle of 10° with respect to the x-axis.

Now during the experiment, we calculate C through observation and trial and error, by adjusting the weights and angles to prevent motion of the ring on the force table.

And this table shows that experimental and calculated results for both magnitude and angle match closely for all four setups. This agreement validates the representation of forces as vectors. The difference may be attributed to limitations in the accuracy of the weights, measurement accuracy of the angle and unaccounted forces caused by friction on the force table and with the pulleys.

Vector addition and subtraction are used in both simple and complex applications. Let’s take a look at some of them.

When touring a city like New York, the distance is usually measured in blocks, and the directions are north, south, east, and west.

A person walking four blocks east and three blocks north undergoes a change in position, which is a vector quantity. Therefore, by applying the equations for vector addition, one can calculate the magnitude and direction of the vector between the start and end points of the walk.

From walking to flying: a pilot is constantly performing mental vector addition and subtraction to maneuver the airplane. By using the wings’ flaps and ailerons, a pilot can adjust lift against gravity. If lift is greater than gravitational force, the plane ascends. If lift is less than gravitational force, it descends.

Similarly, a pilot uses the engines to adjust thrust against drag. If thrust is greater than drag, the plane accelerates. If thrust is less than drag, it decelerates.

When the sum of these four forces equals zero, the plane is in equilibrium and cruises at constant speed and altitude.

You’ve just watched JoVE’s introduction to vectors. You should now know how to add and subtract vectors, and understand how certain physical quantities behave as vectors. Thanks for watching!

JoVE Science Education Database. *JoVE Science Education.* Vectors in Multiple Directions. JoVE, Cambridge, MA, (2023).

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