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What is the difference between acceleration, speed, and velocity?

Before understanding the differences between the three terms it is essential to understand the whole concept and definitions.

Well, let us understand the concept with the help of an example.

Consider a picture where people are running across the field. So, while thinking about it, what comes to mind?

Maybe you will think about the speed to explain how fast they are running?

Or you might think of the acceleration to explain how the runners in the picture gain speed?

And some might think about the velocity to explain the direction in which they are running?

But what do these terms mean? As all three terms are related to motion, what is the difference between them?

While talking about the terms related to motion, it is essential to start by discussing the frame of reference.

Motion generally describes the change in the object’s motion, location, or direction, and the terms speed, acceleration, and velocity describe the motion of an object.

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So, this is the frame of reference. Let us get acquainted with all three terms individually.

Speed

Speed refers to the distance traveled per unit time irrespective of the direction. So, here the only magnitude of importance is a scalar quantity.

Speed is generally used to measure how fast an object is traveling and is calculated by its travel divided by the time it takes to travel the distance.

Speed of an object can be calculated as Distance/Time

Velocity

Velocity refers to the distance traveled per unit time in some specific direction. So here, both direction and magnitude are essential and are a vector quantity.

It states that “How fast an object is moving and in which direction?” Velocity is also measured in the same units as the speed, but the direction of motion is also provided in this case.

Velocity can be calculated as Displacement/Time

Acceleration

Acceleration refers to the rate of change of velocity of an object. Here both the direction and magnitude are considered, so it is a vector quantity.

It states that “How fast an object’s velocity is changing with time?” Basically, it is the rate of change of velocity during a specific period of time.

Acceleration can be calculated as a=v-u/t

Where “a” is acceleration, “v” is final velocity, “u” is the initial velocity, and “t” is time.

Let us now focus on the key differences between all three terms.

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Difference between Speed, Acceleration, and Time

Comparison Parameters Speed Acceleration Velocity
Quantity Type Scalar Quantity Vector Quantity Vector Quantity
Determining Factors Distance and Time Velocity and Time Displacement and Time
Relation with motion Rate of Motion Direction and rate of motion Rate of change of velocity
Formula Distance/ Time Velocity/ Time Displacement/ Time
Units of measurement m/s, km/h, mph m/s2 m/s
Ascertains How fast an object is traveling? How fast an object’s velocity is changing with time? How fast an object is moving and in which direction?

 

Conclusion

All three terms can be defined by

Speed is the rate of distance change, representing how much distance is covered in a particular time.

Velocity is the rate of change of displacement that represents the distance change in a specific direction with respect to time.

And Acceleration is the rate of velocity change per unit of time.

 

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