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Speed and Velocity

Although speed and velocity are often used interchangeably in everyday life, they represent different quantities in physics.

What is speed?

Speed is a measurement of how fast an object moves relative to a reference point. It does not have a direction and is considered a magnitude or scalar quantity. Speed can be figured by the formula:

Speed = Distance/Time
s = d/t

How to Measure Speed

In the United States we mostly think of speed in miles per hour or mph. This is the way the speed of a car is typically measured. In science and physics the standard unit of measure for speed is generally meters per second or m/s.

The measurement of speed can reflect two different scalar quantities. What is velocity?

Velocity is the rate of change in an object's position. Velocity has a magnitude (speed) and a direction. Velocity is a vector quantity. Velocity is represented by the formula:

Velocity = the change in distance/change in time

Velocity = Δx/Δt

How to Measure Velocity

Velocity has the same unit of measure as speed. The standard unit of measure is meters per second or m/s.

What is the difference between speed and velocity?

Speed is the magnitude of velocity. Velocity is the speed of an object plus its direction. Speed is called a scalar quantity and velocity is a vector quantity.

Speed of Light

The fastest possible speed in the universe is the speed of light. The speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second. In physics this number is represented by the letter "c."

Interesting Facts about Speed and Velocity Activities

More Physics Subjects on Motion, Work, and Energy

Scalars and Vectors
Vector Math
Mass and Weight
Speed and Velocity
Laws of Motion
Simple Machines
Glossary of Motion Terms
Work and Energy
Kinetic Energy
Potential Energy
Momentum and Collisions

Science >> Physics for Kids

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