A photograph shows a maglev train traveling past an airport.
Figure 2.1 Shanghai Maglev. At this rate, a train traveling from Boston to Washington, DC, a distance of 439 miles, could make the trip in under an hour and a half. Presently, the fastest train on this route takes over six hours to cover this distance. (Alex Needham, Public Domain)

Describing Motion

Unless you have flown in an airplane, you have probably never traveled faster than 150 mph. Can you imagine traveling in a train like the one shown in Figure 2.1 that goes over 300 mph? Despite the high speed, the people riding in this train may not notice that they are moving at all unless they look out the window! This is because motion, even motion at 300 mph, is relative to the observer.

In this chapter, you will learn why it is important to identify a reference frame in order to clearly describe motion. For now, the motion you describe will be one-dimensional. Within this context, you will learn the difference between distance and displacement as well as the difference between speed and velocity. Then you will look at some graphing and problem-solving techniques.