Geometric object with magnitude (length) and direction.

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26
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6answers
64k views

What is the physical significance of dot & cross product of vectors? Why is division not defined for vectors?

I get the physical significance of vector addition & subtraction. But I don't understand what do dot & cross products mean? More specifically, why is it that dot product of vectors ...
27
votes
5answers
2k views

When is it useful to distinguish between vectors and pseudovectors in experimental & theoretical physics?

My understanding of pseudovectors vs vectors is pretty basic. Both transform in the same way under a rotation, but differently upon reflection. I might even be able to summarize that using an ...
27
votes
8answers
2k views

Is it foolish to distinguish between covariant and contravariant vectors?

A vector space is a set whose elements satisfy certain axioms. Now there are physical entities that satisfy these properties, which may not be arrows. A co-ordinate transformation is linear map from a ...
0
votes
2answers
472 views

Tangential acceleration in circular motion?

A lot of my problems have objects moving in circular paths with tangential and normal components of acceleration. If the tangential component is non-zero though, the speed is changing so the radius ...
16
votes
3answers
1k views

Representing forces as one-forms

First of all, sorry if any of those things are silly or nonsense, I'm just trying to understand better how the concepts of forms, exterior derivative and so on can be used in physics. This question ...
3
votes
2answers
241 views

“Vectors” (i.e. 1-tensors) their definition and motivation for relativity

I'm reading Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell (by Zee) and here he defines a vector as an object which is invariant under coordinate representation; concretely, if in one coordinate representation, $V$, ...
1
vote
2answers
357 views

Point charge potential (sign problem)

I'm a bit embarrassed, but I'm not able to compute the electric potential at point $P$ (at a distance $R$ from the origin) generated by a positive unitary point charge in the origin with the right ...
19
votes
5answers
22k views

How can area be a vector?

My professor told me recently that Area is a vector. A Google search gave me the following definition for a vector: Noun: A quantity having direction as well as magnitude, esp. as determining ...
3
votes
2answers
347 views

Importance of Kronecker product in quantum computation

To get product state of two states $|\phi \rangle$ and $|\psi \rangle$, we use Kronecker product $|\phi \rangle \otimes |\psi \rangle$. Instead of Kronecker product $\otimes$, can we use Cartesian ...
5
votes
4answers
879 views

Meaning of the direction of the cross product

I was doing calculations with torque and then I came across something very confusing: I understand that the magnitude of the torque is given by product of the displacement(from the center of ...
14
votes
5answers
30k views

Why is current a scalar quantity?

Current has both magnitude and direction. As per the definition of vector defined in encyclopedia, current should be a vector quantity. But, we know that current is a scalar quantity. What is the ...
8
votes
7answers
820 views

Is there a physical interpretation of a tensor as a vector with additional qualities?

What is a tensor? has been asked before, with the most highly up-voted answer defining a tensor of rank $k$ as a vector of a tensor of rank $k-1$. But if a scalar is defined as a physical quantity ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Understanding the difference between co- and contra-variant vectors

I am looking at the 4-vector treatment of special relativity, but I have had no formal training in Tensor algebra and thus am having difficulty understanding some of the concepts which appear. One ...
7
votes
4answers
9k views

Direction of angular velocity

Angular velocity is the rate of angular displacement about an axis. Its direction is determined by right hand rule. According to right hand rule, if you hold the axis with your right hand and rotate ...
0
votes
3answers
2k views

Can we have physical quantities which have magnitude and direction but are not vectors?

I am not able to understand how to approach the question. Vectors are defined as quantities having magnitude and direction, then how is it possible? Please explain.
0
votes
2answers
635 views

How to determine velocity vector direction with respect to acceleration.

I'm currently writing a program that attempts to simulate particle movement in a gravitational field with more than one object exerting a force on it. I decided that I'd have the particle move by ...
12
votes
6answers
3k views

How is it that angular velocities are vectors, while rotations aren't?

Does anyone have an intuitive explanation of why this is the case?
8
votes
3answers
978 views

Covariant and contravariant vectors

Reading Weinberg's Gravitation and Cosmology, I came across the sentence (p.115, above equation (4.11.8)) The partial derivative operator $\partial/\partial x^\mu$ is a covariant vector, or in ...
2
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is force a localized vector and not a free vector?

A vector which is drawn parallel to a given vector through a specified point unlike free vector in space is called a localised vector. The effect of a force acting on a body depends not only on the ...
1
vote
4answers
1k views

Vectors with more than 3 components

I have some confusion over Vectors, Its components and dimensions. Does the number of vector components mean that a vector is in that many dimensions? For e.g. $A$ vector with 4 components has 4 ...
0
votes
1answer
201 views

Torque definition and right hand rule not arbitrary

I have read the following: http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_20.html#Ch20-S1 The formula for $\tau_{xy}$ is derived in this chapter: http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_18.html#Ch18-S2. ...
0
votes
3answers
2k views

Direction of Magnetic force from a current running through a coil of wire

What is the direction is the magnetic force vectors pointing from a coil of wire that has current running through it? ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

In coordinate-free relativity, how do we define a vector?

Relativity can be developed without coordinates: Laurent 1994 (SR), Winitzski 2007 (GR). I would normally define a vector by its transformation properties: it's something whose components change ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Uniqueness of Helmholtz decomposition?

Helmholtz theorem states that given a smooth vector field $\pmb{H}$, there are a scalar field $\phi$ and a vector field $\pmb{G}$ such that $$\pmb{H}=\pmb{\nabla} \phi +\pmb{\nabla} \times \pmb{G},$$ ...
11
votes
7answers
335 views

How can a set of components fail to make up a vector?

Many books in Physics insist to define vectors are objects with components with the property that the components transform in a proper way under a change of coordinates. Now, in mathematics, on the ...
4
votes
2answers
239 views

A whole lot of doubts on Lorentz representation

Can someone tell me in layman's language how the $(1/2,1/2)$ represents a vector field and $(0,1/2)$ or $(1/2,0)$ represents spinors and $(0,0)$ represents scalar field. Please don't be pedantic on ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Which mathematical operation does the right hand rule for current come from?

I am currently wondering about this famous rule: Where does it come from mathematically that when you point with your thumb in the direction of the current, your curved fingers will point in the ...
2
votes
3answers
242 views

Dimension of vector resulting from tensorial product

I'm quoting what I found in a book about quantum computation: Individual state spaces of $n$ particles combine quantum mechanically through the tensor product. If $X$ and $Y$ are vectors, then ...
4
votes
1answer
473 views

Equivalent definitions of vectors

Equivalent definitions of vectors. In maths a vector is an object that obeys some axioms of a vector space. But in physics a vector can be thought as an object which is invariant under rotations of ...
4
votes
3answers
99k views

Linear acceleration vs angular acceleration equation

I'm learning about angular velocity, momentum, etc. and how all the equations are parallel to linear equations such as velocity or momentum. However, I'm having trouble comparing angular acceleration ...
2
votes
4answers
17k views

What is the difference between dot and cross product?

What is the difference between dot product and cross product? Why do we use cross product to find torque, why can't we use dot product? Also we use dot product to find work done and not cross ...
0
votes
2answers
761 views

Why do we say that in Coulomb's law the force is proportional to $\frac{1}{r^{2}}$ and not $\frac{1}{r^{3}}$?

I am going over Coulomb's law and there is something that is a bit confusing for me: According to Coulomb's law, if I have a charge $q_{1}$ at a point $\vec{r_{1}}$ and a charge $q_{2}$ at a point ...
2
votes
7answers
79k views

What does the magnitude of the acceleration mean?

I am a little confused as to what the magnitude of acceleration is and what it means.
1
vote
1answer
755 views

Why consider only direction cosines?

Why are these called direction angles? Why do we consider only direction cosines and not direction sines or tans. What is its actual significance? And How to use them? Why are they called ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

What is the physical meaning of a dot product and a cross product of vectors? [duplicate]

My teacher told me that Vectors are quantities that behave like Displacements. Seen this way, the triangle law of vector addition simply means that to reach point C from point A, going from A to B ...
0
votes
2answers
68 views

The Vectors in $v=f\lambda$

We are learning about waves in physics and I was just wondering what are the vectors and what are the scalars in this function:$$v=f\lambda$$ I know the velocity $v$ is a vector so that means that: ...
0
votes
1answer
40 views

New direction vector after collision of spheres [closed]

I have a volume in 3-space in which random spheres are spawned in motion. They have the following attributes to them: position known (in three axes) a direction vector (in three axes) a scalar speed ...
0
votes
2answers
115 views

Why taking components of a component of a vector is invalid?

Suppose there's a force $F$ of magnitude 10 newtons in the direction of positive y-axis acting on a particle A. I know that the particle would not experience any force in the positive x-direction ...
0
votes
3answers
5k views

Vertical component of moving weight at a 45 degree angle

Here's an easier one. I use the leg press machine at the gym so I don't have to worrying about hurting myself while lifting heavier weight. The weight glides on a track that looks to be 45 degrees. ...
0
votes
2answers
981 views

Understanding weight on an inclined plane

I'm trying to solve a problem where I have an object resting on an inclined plane, with the angle of the plan being alpha, and the weight being w. I'm having trouble figuring out how I can calculate ...
2
votes
2answers
10k views

Derive vector gradient in spherical coordinates from first principles

Trying to understand where the $\frac{1}{r sin(\theta)}$ and $1/r$ bits come in the definition of gradient. I've derived the spherical unit vectors but now I don't understand how to transform ...
16
votes
5answers
28k views

Can we divide two vectors?

Can we divide two vector quantities? For eg., Pressure( a scalar) equals force (a vector) divided by area (a vector).
8
votes
6answers
1k views

Where am I confused about force addition?

As far as my knowledge is concerned, a vector quantity should possess magnitude and direction & more over it should also obey the laws of vector addition. As we all know that the vector sum of 3 ...
14
votes
7answers
2k views

Quaternions and 4-vectors

I recently realised that quaternions could be used to write intervals or norms of vectors in special relativity: $$(t,ix,jy,kz)^2 = t^2 + (ix)^2 + (jy)^2 + (kz)^2 = t^2 - x^2 - y^2 - z^2$$ Is it ...
6
votes
4answers
955 views

Is the covariance or contravariance of vectors/tensors something that can be “visualized”?

I'm taking an undergrad GR course, and our text (Lambourne) mentions covariant and contravariant vectors and tensors ad-nauseum, but never really gives a formal definition for what they are, and how ...
3
votes
1answer
144 views

How does the Lorentz group act on a 4-vector in the spinor-helicity formalism $p_{\alpha\dot{\alpha}}$?

Given a 4-vector $p^\mu$ the Lorentz group acts on it in the vector representation: $$ \tag{1} p^\mu \longrightarrow (J_V[\Lambda])^\mu_{\,\,\nu} p^\nu\equiv \Lambda^\mu_{\,\,\nu} p^\nu. $$ However, I ...
8
votes
2answers
595 views

What does it mean to transform as a scalar or vector?

I'm working through an introductory electrodynamics text (Griffiths), and I encountered a pair of questions asking me to show that: the divergence transforms as a scalar under rotations the ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

How to understand the definition of vector and tensor?

Physics texts like to define vector as something that transform like a vector and tensor as something that transform like a tensor, which is different from the definition in math books. I am having ...
4
votes
2answers
815 views

Nature of spacetime 4-vector and tangent space?

An entry level confusion about spacetime. I understand that a 4-vector describes a point or event in spacetime. But I've also read (Bertschinger, 1999) that re spacetime "we are discussing tangent ...
1
vote
3answers
806 views

Why do we need both dot product and cross product?

I was looking for an intuitive definition for dot product and cross product. I have found two similar quesitions in SO, but I am not satisfied with the answers. Finally I found a possible answer here. ...