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Homework Help: Position vs Time Lab

  1. Sep 14, 2014 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    Graphically and mathematically model the relationship between position and the time for a motorized lab car. The definition of position my teacher gave us is: "Where an object is located with respect to a coordinate system. (measured in meters)". Everyone else in my class was just measuring how far they go in one direction, even if the cars pulled to one direction, which ours did. This seems more like they are measuring distance, and not position. I am wondering what the difference is between position and distance, and how to calculate position. (My teacher was very vague and would not answer our questions).

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2014 #2
    Edit: nvm.

    Position-time graph and a distance-time graph means the same thing.

    Position is a point where you happen to be.
    Distance is how far you have moved from the original position.

    Example the car is driving down a long ruler at 1m/s.

    t=1 the car is at the 1m mark
    t=2 the car is at the 2m mark
    ... so on.

    t=1 the car is 1m from the starting line
    t=2 the car is 2m from the starting line
    ... so on.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2014
  4. Sep 14, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    "distance" doesn't imply any particular direction (unless constraints are specified or assumed). "Position" implies a locatable point in a defined coordinate system and has a definite distance AND direction from the origin of the coordinate system.

    It sounds like your teacher is trying to get across the distinction between distance and position, and is letting you puzzle it out yourselves.

    There is a similar "confusion" between speed and velocity. In common language they are basically the same thing, but in physics speed is a scalar quantity without any particular direction, while velocity is a vector quantity with both magnitude and direction.
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