Vector algebra is a specialized branch of algebra dedicated to the manipulation of vectors. Vectors are unique in that they possess both magnitude and direction, making standard algebraic operations insufficient for their treatment. To work with vector quantities, we employ specific algebraic rules governing addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Vectors find convenient representation in both two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) spaces. The applications of vector algebra are wide-ranging, extending to problem-solving in mathematics and physics, as well as its use in engineering and various other domains. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of vector algebra, exploring vector operations, types of vectors.

## What Is Vector Algebra?

Vector algebra is a branch of mathematics that deals with operations on vectors. Vectors are mathematical objects that have both **magnitude** (size) and **direction**. In vector algebra, we perform special operations on these vectors, such as addition, subtraction, and multiplication, following specific rules.

Vectors can be represented in two- or three-dimensional spaces, making them versatile tools for describing physical quantities that involve both magnitude and direction. Vector algebra finds applications in various fields, including mathematics, physics, engineering, and more.

A vector can be **represented by an arrow** in space. The length of the arrow indicating magnitude, and its direction indicating the direction of the quantity it represents.

**Example:**

Consider a vector **v** with a magnitude of 5 units in the direction of north. It can be represented as **v** = 5i, where ‘i’ denotes the unit vector in the north direction.

## Operations in Vector Algebra

Vector algebra involves several operations that help manipulate vectors. The primary vector operations are addition, subtraction, scalar multiplication, and the dot product. Let’s explore each of these operations with examples:

- Addition of Vectors
- Subtraction of Vectors
- Multiplication of Vectors by Scalar
- Dot Product
- Cross Product of Vectors

### Addition of Vectors

Vector addition combines two or more vectors into a single vector. The result is a vector that represents the overall effect of the individual vectors.

**Example:** Suppose we have two displacement vectors, A and B, with magnitudes of 5 units and 3 units, respectively. To find the total displacement when we move first in the direction of A and then in the direction of B, we add the two vectors:

$R=A+B$

Here, R represents the resultant displacement.

### Subtraction of Vectors

Vector subtraction is the process of finding the difference between two vectors. It is essentially the addition of the negative of the second vector to the first vector.

Example: If vector A represents a 5-unit eastward displacement, and vector B represents a 3-unit northward displacement, then the subtraction $A−B$ gives us the displacement from the tail of A to the head of B.

### Multiplication of Vectors by Scalar

Scalar multiplication involves multiplying a vector by a scalar (a real number). The result is a new vector with the same direction (if the scalar is positive) or the opposite direction (if the scalar is negative) as the original vector.

**Example:** Let vector A represent a 4-unit eastward displacement. If we multiply this vector by -2, we get a new vector $B=−2A$, which represents a 4-unit westward displacement.

** Dot Product**

The dot product (also known as the scalar product) is a mathematical operation that combines two vectors to produce a scalar. It measures how much two vectors align with each other.

**Example:** If vector A represents a force of 10 Newtons acting to the right, and vector B represents a 5 Newtons force acting at a 45-degree angle to A, the dot product $⋅B$ quantifies how much of B’s force contributes to the force in the direction of A. The dot product is calculated as:

$A⋅B=∣A∣∣B∣cos(θ)$

Where θ is the angle between A and B. In this example, the dot product measures the effective force in the direction of A due to the 5 Newtons force acting at an angle.

### Cross Product of Vectors

The cross product of two vectors produces a new vector that is orthogonal to the original vectors. It is calculated using a determinant.

**Example:**

If **A** = **i** + **j** and **B** = **i** – **j**,

then **A** × **B** = **k**.

**Vector Triple Product**

The vector triple product is a mathematical identity relating the cross product of vectors. I

t is defined as **A** × (**B** × **C**) = (**A** · **C**) **B** – (**A** · **B**) **C**.

**Example:**

If **A** = i, **B** = j, and **C** = k,

then **A** × (**B** × **C**)

= (i × (j × k))

= i × (-i) = -j.

### Scalar Triple Product

The scalar triple product is another vector identity that combines the dot and cross products.

It is defined as **A** · (**B** × **C**) = **B** · (**C** × **A**).

**Example:**

If **A** = i, **B** = j, and **C** = k,

then **A** · (**B** × **C**)

= (i · (j × k))

= (i · (-i)) = -1.

## Applications of Vector Algebra

- Vector algebra is used in physics and engineering.
- It helps analyze electromagnetic fields, gravitational fields, and fluid flow.
- Differential equations are solved using vector algebra.
- It calculates resultant forces on objects.
- Vector algebra is used to find equipotential surfaces in fields like electricity and gravity.

### Vector Algebra Examples

Here are some solved examples of vector algebra:

**Example 1: Vector Addition**

Let’s say we have two vectors A and B, where A = 3i + 2j and B = -i + 4j. Find the vector C = A + B.

To find C, we add corresponding components of A and B:

C = (3i + 2j) + (-i + 4j) C = (3 – 1)i + (2 + 4)j C = 2i + 6j

So, the vector C is 2i + 6j.

**Example 2: Dot Product**

**Given two vectors A = 2i + 3j and B = 4i – j, find their dot product (A · B).**

The dot product of two vectors A and B is given by:

A · B = |A| * |B| * cos(θ)

First, calculate the magnitudes of A and B:

|A| = √(2² + 3²) = √(4 + 9) = √13 |B| = √(4² + (-1)²) = √(16 + 1) = √17

Now, find the angle θ between the vectors. Using the dot product formula:

A · B = |A| * |B| * cos(θ)

2 * 4 + 3 * (-1) = √13 * √17 * cos(θ) 8 – 3 = √(13 * 17) * cos(θ) 5 = √(221) * cos(θ)

Now, solve for cos(θ):

cos(θ) = 5 / √221

To find θ, take the arccosine of this value:

θ ≈ cos⁻¹(5 / √221)

So, the dot product of vectors A and B is approximately cos⁻¹(5 / √221).

**Example 3: Cross Product**

**Given two vectors A = 2i + 3j + k and B = i – 2j + 3k, find their cross product (A × B).**

The cross product of two vectors A and B is given by:

A × B = (i * (3 * 3 – (-2 * 1)) – j * (2 * 3 – 1 * 1) + k * (2 * (-2) – 3 * 1))

A × B = (i * (9 + 2) – j * (6 – 1) + k * (-4 – 3))

A × B = (11i – 5j – 7k)

So, the cross product of vectors A and B is 11i – 5j – 7k.

**Example 4: Scalar Projection**

**Given a vector A = 3i – 2j and another vector B = 4i + j, find the scalar projection of A onto B.**

The scalar projection of vector A onto vector B is given by:

Scalar Projection of A onto B = |A| * cos(θ)

First, calculate the magnitudes of A and B:

|A| = √(3² + (-2)²) = √(9 + 4) = √13

|B| = √(4² + 1²) = √(16 + 1) = √17

Now, find the angle θ between the vectors. Using the dot product formula:

A · B = |A| * |B| * cos(θ)

(3 * 4 + (-2 * 1)) = √13 * √17 * cos(θ)

(12 – 2) = √(13 * 17) * cos(θ)

10 = √(221) * cos(θ)

Now, solve for cos(θ):

cos(θ) = 10 / √221

To find θ, take the arccosine of this value:

θ ≈ cos⁻¹(10 / √221)

So, the scalar projection of vector A onto B is approximately cos⁻¹(10 / √221).

**Example 5: Vector Projection**

**Given a vector A = 2i + 3j and another vector B = i – 2j, find the vector projection of A onto B.**

The vector projection of A onto B is given by:

Vector Projection of A onto B = ((A · B) / |B|²) * B

First, calculate the dot product of A and B:

A · B = (2 * 1) + (3 * (-2)) = 2 – 6 = -4

Now, find the magnitude of B:

|B| = √(1² + (-2)²) = √(1 + 4) = √5

Now, calculate the vector projection:

Vector Projection of A onto B = ((-4) / (√5)²) * (i – 2j)

= ((-4) / 5) * (i – 2j)

Vector Projection of A onto B = (-4/5)i + (-8/5)j

So, the vector projection of vector A onto B is (-4/5)i + (-8/5)j.

**Example 6: Finding Angle Between Vectors**

**Given two vectors A = 2i – 3j and B = 4i + j, find the angle θ between them.**

We can use the dot product formula:

A · B = |A| * |B| * cos(θ)

First, calculate the magnitudes of A and B as we did in a previous example:

|A| = √(2² + (-3)²) = √(4 + 9) = √13

|B| = √(4² + 1²) = √(16 + 1) = √17

Now, we can use the dot product formula:

(2 * 4 + (-3 * 1)) = √13 * √17 * cos(θ)

(8 – 3) = √(13 * 17) * cos(θ)

5 = √(221) * cos(θ)

Now, solve for cos(θ) as before:

cos(θ) = 5 / √221

And find θ:

θ ≈ cos⁻¹(5 / √221)

So, the angle θ between vectors A and B is approximately cos⁻¹(5 / √221).

**Example 7: Vector Subtraction**

Let’s say we have two vectors A = 3i + 2j and B = 2i – 4j. Find the vector C = A – B.

To find C, we subtract corresponding components of B from A:

C = (3i + 2j) – (2i – 4j)

= (3 – 2)i + (2 + 4)j

C = i + 6j

So, the vector C is i + 6j.

**Example 8: Unit Vector**

**Given a vector A = 5i – 12j, find the unit vector in the direction of A.**

The unit vector in the direction of A is calculated as follows:

Unit Vector = A / |A|

First, calculate the magnitude of A:

|A| = √(5² + (-12)²) = √(25 + 144) = √169 = 13

Now, calculate the unit vector:

Unit Vector = (5i – 12j) / 13

Unit Vector = (5/13)i – (12/13)j

So, the unit vector in the direction of A is (5/13)i – (12/13)j.

## FAQs

**What is a vector in mathematics?**

A vector is a mathematical quantity that has both magnitude and direction. It is often represented as an arrow in space.

**What is the difference between a scalar and a vector?**

Scalars are quantities with only magnitude (e.g., mass, temperature), while vectors have both magnitude and direction (e.g., velocity, force).

**How is vector addition performed?**

Vector addition is performed by adding corresponding components of vectors. For example, to add vectors A and B, add their x-components to get the x-component of the result, and do the same for y and z.

**What is the dot product of two vectors?**

The dot product (or scalar product) of two vectors A and B is a scalar quantity defined as A · B = |A||B|cos(θ), where θ is the angle between them.