Question
Sat April 17, 2010 By: Vishal Tambrahalli

Components of vectors

Expert Reply
Sun April 18, 2010

Dear student,

The concept of component of a vector is tied to the concept of vector sum. We have seen that the sum of two vectors represented by two sides of a triangle is given by a vector represented by the closing side (third) of the triangle in opposite direction. Importantly, we can analyze this process of summation of two vectors inversely. We can say that a single vector (represented by third side of the triangle) is equivalent to two vectors in two directions (represented by the remaining two sides).




We can generalize this inverse interpretation of summation process. We can say that a vector can always be considered equivalent to a pair of vectors. The law of triangle, therefore, provides a general frame work of resolution of a vector in two components in as many ways as we can draw triangle with one side represented by the vector in question. However, this general framework is not very useful. Resolution of vectors turns out to be meaningful, when we think resolution in terms of vectors at right angles. In that case, associated triangle is a right angle. The vector being resolved into components is represented by the hypotenuse and components are represented by two sides of the right angle triangle.
 


Resolution of a vector into components is an important concept for two reasons : (i) there are physical situations where we need to consider the effect of a physical vector quantity in specified direction. For example, we consider only the component of weight along an incline to analyze the motion of the block over it and (ii) the concept of components in the directions of rectangular axes, enable us to develop algebraic methods for vectors.
 
Hope this helps.

Team

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