Why are vectors important?

1 Answer
Jul 15, 2014

Knowledge of vectors is important because many quantities used in physics are vectors. If you try to add together vector quantities without taking into account their direction you'll get results that are incorrect.

Some of the key vector quantities in physics: force, displacement, velocity, and acceleration.

An example of the importance of vector addition could be the following:
Two cars are involved in a collision. At the time of the collision car A was travelling at 40 mph, car B was travelling at 60 mph. Until I tell you in which directions the cars were travelling you don't know how serious the collision was.

The cars could have been travelling in the same direction, in which case car B crashed into the back of car A, and the relative velocity between them was 20 mph. Or the cars could have been travelling in opposite directions, in which case it was a head on collision with a relative velocity between the cars of 100 mph!