Vectores y escalares
Lee el siguiente texto (adaptado de “University Physics Volume 1” de OpenStax; puedes descargarlo gratuitamente en el enlace https://cnx.org/contents/1Q9uMg_a@5.57:ffNtT2kw@7/Scalars-and-Vectors) y contesta las preguntas.
Many familiar physical quantities can be specified completely by giving a single number and the appropriate unit. For example, “a class period lasts 50 min” or “the gas tank in my car holds 65 L” or “the distance between two posts is 100 m.” A physical quantity that can be specified completely in this manner is called a scalar quantity. Scalar is a synonym of “number.” Time, mass, distance, length, volume, temperature, and energy are examples of scalar quantities.
Scalar quantities that have the same physical units can be added or subtracted according to the usual rules of algebra for numbers. For example, a class ending 10 min earlier than 50 min lasts 50 min −10 min = 40 min. Similarly, a 60-cal serving of corn followed by a 200-cal serving of donuts gives 60 cal + 200 cal = 260 cal of energy. When we multiply a scalar quantity by a number, we obtain the same scalar quantity but with a larger (or smaller) value. For example, if yesterday’s breakfast had 200 cal of energy and today’s breakfast has four times as much energy as it had yesterday, then today’s breakfast has 4(200 cal) = 800 cal of energy. Two scalar quantities can also be multiplied or divided by each other to form a derived scalar quantity. For example, if a train covers a distance of 100 km in one hour, its speed is 100 km / 1 h = 100 km/h, where the speed is a derived scalar quantity obtained by dividing distance by time.
Many physical quantities, however, cannot be described completely by just a single number of physical units. For example, when the U.S. Coast Guard dispatches a ship or a helicopter for a rescue mission, the rescue team must know not only the distance to the distress signal, but also the direction from which the signal is coming so they can get to its origin as quickly as possible. Physical quantities specified completely by giving a number of units (magnitude) and a direction are called vector quantities. Examples of vector quantities include displacement, velocity, position and force. In the language of mathematics, physical vector quantities are represented by mathematical objects called vectors. We can add or subtract two vectors, and we can multiply a vector by a scalar or by another vector, but we cannot divide by a vector. The operation of division by a vector is not defined.
Suppose you tell a friend on a camping trip that you have discovered a terrific fishing hole 6 km from your tent. It is unlikely your friend would be able to find the hole easily unless you also communicate the direction in which it can be found with respect to your campsite. You may say, for example, “Walk about 6 km northeast from my tent.” The key concept here is that you have to give not one but two pieces of information—namely, the distance or magnitude (6 km) and the direction (northeast).
Displacement is a general term used to describe a change in position, such as during a trip from the tent to the fishing hole. Displacement is an example of a vector quantity. If you walk from the tent (location A) to the hole (location B), as shown in Figure 2.3, the vector representing your displacement is drawn as the arrow that originates at point A and ends at point B. The arrowhead marks the end of the vector. The direction of the displacement vector is the direction of the arrow. The length of the arrow represents the magnitude of the vector.
Figure 2.3. The displacement vector from point A (the initial position at the campsite) to point B (the final position at the fishing hole) is indicated by an arrow with origin at point A and end at point B. The displacement is the same for any of the actual paths (dashed curves) that may be taken between points A and B.
- ¿Qué tienen en común las magnitudes escalares y las vectoriales? ¿En qué se diferencian?
- Explica un ejemplo que ponga de manifiesto el carácter vectorial de la fuerza.
- Según el texto, la distancia es una magnitud escalar y el desplazamiento es una magnitud vectorial. ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre estas dos magnitudes?
- ¿La velocidad es una magnitud escalar o vectorial? Justifica tu respuesta.