Geometric object with magnitude (length) and direction.

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14
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5answers
8k 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 ...
13
votes
6answers
20k 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 ...
13
votes
7answers
696 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
590 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

Is a 1D vector also a scalar?

A vector in one dimension has only one component. Can we consider it as a scalar at the same time? Why time is not a vector, although it can be negative and positive (when solving for time the ...
8
votes
6answers
1k 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
2k 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
6answers
482 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
3answers
2k views

Physics of a skateboard ollie

Does anyone have a good explanation of the physics and vectors of force involved in the skateboarding trick the ollie (where the skater jumps and causes the skateboard to rise off the ground with ...
7
votes
2answers
247 views

Can we show that time is orthogonal to space?

It's easy to show that the time we measure is "in a different direction" from the space directions we measure. However, it's not immediately obvious to me that these directions are orthogonal. How do ...
6
votes
4answers
256 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
603 views

Are covariant vectors representable as row vectors and contravariant as column vectors

I would like to know what are the range of validity of the following statement: Covariant vectors are representable as row vectors. Contravariant vectors are representable as column vectors. ...
5
votes
6answers
2k views

How is gradient the maximum rate of change of a function?

Recently I read a book which described about gradient. It says $${\rm d}T~=~ \nabla T \cdot {\rm d}{\bf r},$$ and suddenly they concluded that $\nabla T$ is the maximum rate of change of $f(T)$ ...
5
votes
3answers
436 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
267 views

Is length/distance a vector?

I have heard that area is a vector quantity in 3 dimensions, e.g. this Phys.SE post, what about the length/distance? Since area is the product of two lengths, does this mean that length is also a ...
5
votes
1answer
256 views

What does scalar phi represent in spacetime?

Trying to understand one-forms and vectors via Schutz's A First Course In General Relativity. His example uses a spacetime diagram, a scalar field phi, a curve (worldline) parametrized using proper ...
5
votes
1answer
306 views

Vector and Spinor Representation in Ramond-Neveu-Schwarz Superstring Theory

I am learning Ramnond-Neveu-Schwarz Superstring theory (RNS theory). I often find the following notation, especially in the closed string spectrum etc.: $$\mathbf{8}_s,\mathbf{8}_v $$ And it is ...
5
votes
2answers
179 views

Why distinguish between row and column vectors?

Mathematically, a vector is an element of a vector space. Sometimes, it's just an n-tuple $(a,b,c)$. In physics, one often demands that the tuple has certain transformation properties to be called a ...
4
votes
2answers
487 views

Is (0,0,0) an undefined vector?

I'm not sure what to make of the direction of a vector with components (0,0,0). Is it an undefined vector?
4
votes
1answer
1k 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 $$\pmb{H}=\pmb{\nabla} \phi +\pmb{\nabla} \times \pmb{G},$$ ...
4
votes
2answers
290 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
145 views

Vector potential

I have difficulty understanding the following vector calculus example. Text can be found here. It is the 5th Q&A -- starting with equation (31.1035).It concerns finding the vector potential of a ...
3
votes
3answers
47k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
56 views

On a horizontal plane, why does $F_N=W$?

I keep seeing this definition everywhere, but I don't understand. The forces of the weight and the normal force are going in opposite directions, so shouldn't $F_N=-W$?
3
votes
4answers
237 views

How to apply an algebraic operator expression to a ket found in Dirac's QM book?

I've been trying to learn quantum mechanics from a formal point of view, so I picked up Dirac's book. In the fourth edition, 33rd page, starting from this:$$\xi|\xi'\rangle=\xi'|\xi'\rangle$$ (Where ...
3
votes
2answers
104 views

Sign of acceleration

I'm developing an application using accelerometer sensor. I'm not good at physics so forgive me if the question is trivial. If I have 3 values of acceleration: $x$, $y$, $z$, I find acceleration ...
3
votes
2answers
76 views

Scattering geometry question

While reading up on light scattering I came across this slide: My vector maths is a bit rusty and I am having trouble understanding the last term (scattering geometry). What is the significance of ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Resultant of two forces acting in the same line

I'm quoting the definition of Resultant of two forces acting in the same line from the book "A FIRST COURSE IN PHYSICS" one of whose authors is Robert Andrews Millikan: The resultant of two forces ...
3
votes
2answers
773 views

Finding force vectors

A tugboat tows a ship at a constant velocity. The tow harness consists of a single tow cable attached to the tugboat at point $A$ that splits at point $B$ and attaches to the ship at points $C$ and ...
3
votes
1answer
593 views

Electric field a distance $z$ above the center of a circular loop. The Hard way [closed]

Problem 2.5: Find the electric field a distance $z$ above the center of a circular loop of radius $r$ which carries a uniform line charge $\lambda$. This problem is in refereced here (with ...
3
votes
1answer
241 views

Why can we use just one angular velocity vector to describe the rotation of a whole non-inertial reference frame?

The other day in class the professor was explaining non-inertial reference frames. We were working out how to find the acceleration of a point as measured from the non-inertial reference frame, and ...
3
votes
3answers
502 views

How do I meaningfully divide by a vector?

How long does it take a baseball with velocity $(30, 20, 25) m/s$ to travel from location $r_1 = (3, 7,−9) m$ to location $r_2 = (18, 17, 3.5)m$? I am thinking that it should be the ...
3
votes
0answers
68 views

Sound - for purposes of vibration

What is the best way to distribute noise from more than one source (I'm envisioning a system with many), within a dome, with the ground as its primary target, at optimal frequencies and volumes to ...
2
votes
3answers
524 views

The velocity formula $\mathbf{v} = \mathbf{u} + \mathbf{a}t$ for 1D, 2D, 3D . What is the difference?

Could I use $\mathbf{v} = \mathbf{u} + \mathbf{a}t$ for calculating velocity in these 3 different dimensions? If not, what's the difference between these 3 dimensions? How would you calculate ...
2
votes
3answers
288 views

How to distinguish 4D and 3D vectors in handwriting?

Usually vectors are denoted with bold font in printbooks and with arrows above in handwriting. In Thorn's e al. Gravitation, 4D vectors are denoted with bold and 3D vectors with bold italic. How to ...
2
votes
2answers
527 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 ...
2
votes
4answers
74 views

Sum of acceleration vectors

If a point mass has some accelerations $\mathbf{a_1} $ and $\mathbf{a_2} $, why is mathematically true that the "total" acceleration is $\mathbf{a}= \mathbf {a_1}+\mathbf {a_2}$?
2
votes
3answers
188 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

split gravitational force into x, y, and z componenets

I am writing a program for a computer science class in which I am doing an n-body simulation in 3-dimensional space. Currently, I have figured out the gravitational force along the hypotenuse between ...
2
votes
2answers
82 views

How to determine which one would not be the resultant?

i had a physics exam yesterday, which was all in all pretty good except for this one question which i just don't get.: ...
2
votes
2answers
138 views

About vector form of friction

I read a text on mechanics and in the chapter on friction, there written that the kinetic friction is in the form $$f_k = \mu_k F_N$$ where $f_k$ is the kinetic friction, $\mu_k$ is the kinetic ...
2
votes
2answers
247 views

Coordinate transformation from earth to solar

I am building a 3d model of the solar system and need to figure out the position of the pole stars of each planet in order to tilt the planets in the correct direction the correct amount. I've already ...
2
votes
2answers
218 views

Why do smaller objects become harder to break?

When grabbing a typical tree branch of at least two feet, it's so easy to snap with a less than one inch circumference that even a toddler can do it. However, after breaking it, the smaller halves ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

How do I split a vector into components parallel and perpendicular to a known line?

Given $\mathbf{F}=\langle 7.20,−12.0,28.2\rangle\text{ Newtons}$, find the component of $\mathbf{F}$ that acts perpendicular to member DA such that the vector addition of the perpendicular and ...
2
votes
5answers
168 views

How does this shell hit the aircraft?

A fighter aircraft is flying horizontally at an altitude of 1500m with speed of 200m/s. The aircraft passes directly overhead an anti-aircraft gun. The muzzle speed of the gun is 600m/s. ...
2
votes
2answers
878 views

Meaning of angular velocity in a rotating system

When you study the motion of a rigid body you have $\vec\omega$, the vector associated to angular velocity. In the case you are using Euler angles and want a quick formula for the rotational kinetic ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Which are other anomalies like Divergence of 1/r^2?

As one might have learned in the basic science (ex. Electrodynamic theory), when we apply the divergence theorem to the vector function like 1/r^2 with it pointing in the radial direction (like ...
2
votes
3answers
641 views

negative vectors (eg velocity)

If you said someone had a velocity of -12mph and they were traveling north? Wouldn't it mean that they were traveling 12mph south? This is a quote from here: if something [object-x] moving to the ...
2
votes
1answer
68 views

What is the physical interpretation of the dot/inner/scalar product of two vectors?

What is the physical interpretation of the dot/inner/scalar product of two vectors? See, if we multiply two scalars like 2*3 we say two times three is six. I also do understand multiplication of ...
2
votes
1answer
191 views

The curl of a special cross product

When given two vectors $\mathbf{A}$ and $\mathbf{B}$, the curl of the cross product of these two is given by ...