LINES AND PLANES IN R 3

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1 LINES AND PLANES IN R 3 In this handout we will summarize the properties of the dot product and cross product and use them to present arious descriptions of lines and planes in three dimensional space. 1. The Geometry of the Dot Product Let =< 1, 2, 3 > be a ector in R 3. If w =< w 1,w 2,w 3 > is another ector, then their dot product, denoted w is a scalar gien by: w = w cos(θ) = 1 w w w 3 Here θ is the angle between and w. Now if was a unit ector, then w = w cos(θ) is the length of the projection of w along the ector. (If it is negatie, its absolute alue is the length of the projection, and the projection is in the opposite direction of.) If we keep the length w constant but moe the ector w around, the maximal length of the projection occurs when cos(θ) = ±1, which corresponds to θ = 0 or θ = π. That is, when w is parallel to. The length is zero when w and are orthogonal (perpendicular), which corresponds to θ = π 2. The set of ectors which are orthogonal to is a plane and is called a normal ector to the plane. A part of this plane is shown in Figure 1 as a disc. The ector u is in the plane and u = 0. Hence the dot product measures how close a ector is to being parallel to another ector. w u Figure 1: The Dot Product Figure 1. The Dot Product 1

2 2 LINES AND PLANES IN R 3 2. The Geometry of the Cross Product The cross product of two ectors and w is another ector, denoted w and is gien by: w = < 2 w 3 3 w 2, 3 w 1 1 w 3, 1 w 2 2 w 1 > w = w sin(θ) The direction of w is gien by the right hand rule: w is orthogonal to both and w (and so is orthogonal to the plane determined by and w) and points in the direction of your thumb if you point the four fingers of your right hand in the direction and curl them toward the w direction. The cross product is anti-commutatie: w = w. Also, when w is parallel to, then θ = 0 or θ = π and w = 0. So the dot product equals the scalar 0 on perpendicular ectors but the cross product equals the ector 0 on parallel ectors. The length w of the cross product equals the area of the parallelogram determined by and w. If we keep the length w constant but moe the ector w around, the maximal area occurs when sin(θ) = 1, which corresponds to θ = π 2. That is, when w is orthogonal to. The area is zero when w and are parallel, since their cross product is 0 in that case. The set of ectors which are parallel to is a line and is called a direction ector of the line. This can be seen in Figure 2. X w w Figure 2: The Cross Product Figure 2. The Cross Product 3. Lines in R 3 Suppose we had an infinite straight line in R 3. Think of it as an infinite ruler. This ruler has some scale on it, which is determined by where the origin is, and by the distance between successie integer units of length. (Once we pick our origin, we also hae to choose which side of the origin will be positie and which will be negatie. So it is more like a thermometer than a ruler.) We can describe the line

3 LINES AND PLANES IN R 3 3 by giing all the points on the line. Let us label the origin ( zero temperature ) of our infinite thermometer by p, which is a ector from the origin of R 3 to the origin of the thermometer. Let the ector be the ector from the origin of the thermometer to the position which is at temperature +1 on the thermometer. (See Figure 3.) Now to get from the origin of R 3, to the point whose temperature on our thermometer is t first we get to the origin of our thermometer which is a displacement p, then we need to add to this a displacement of t. Hence we see that the ector p + t has its tip on our line, if its tail is at (0,0,0). Also, as we ary t oer all possible real numbers, positie, negatie, and zero, we get all the points on this infinite line. This is called a set of parametric equations for the line, and t is called the parameter. Figure 3: Lines in Space 4 p + 4 p p p p + 0 p + ( 1) z y p 1 2 p + ( 2) x Figure 3. The Line Through p with Direction Vector If we write p =< x 0,y 0,z 0 > and =< 1, 2, 3 >, then the parametric equations correspond to three functions of t: x = x t y = y t z = z t We get the whole line for < t <, and we can describe just a segment of the line by restricting the parameter t to satisfy a t b for some endpoints a and b. Parametric equations for a line are not unique. This is a mathematician s way of saying that there are infinitely many ways of describing the same straight line in this way and they are all correct. This is easily seen: in the aboe description, we can choose any point p on the line and any ector in the direction of the line. In the thermometer analogy, choosing a different p corresponds to choosing a different point on our infinite thermometer to correspond to zero temperature, and changing the length of corresponds to changing the scale (distance between successie degrees). We can also change the direction of, which corresponds to reersing the positie and negatie directions of the thermometer. But it is always still the same infinite line.

4 4 LINES AND PLANES IN R 3 Before we moe on to planes, let us rewrite the equations for a line using the cross product, and eliminating the parameter t in the process. Let r =< x,y,z > be a arying point on the line. Then r p = t, so it is parallel to and so we can write: (r p) = 0 This is sometimes called the ector equation for a line. It says that if p is a fixed point on the line, and is a direction ector for the line, then all other points r on the line satisfy that equation. 4. Planes in R 3 Now suppose we had an infinite plane in R 3. Think of it as an infinite map of the earth. (Pretend the earth was flat and was infinite). We could pick an origin on this map and draw Cartesian x- and y- axes to describe all the points on it. (Like latitude and longitude on a flat map). You can also think of it as drawing your map on graph paper. But we don t need to make the graph paper out of squares. We can use any parallelogram. On our parallelogram graph paper, we can pick an origin (0, 0) which corresponds to the ertex of one parallelogram, and label the opposite ertex of the same parallelogram as the point (1,1). This corresponds to picking two ectors and w on the plane both starting at the origin of our plane with (1,1) corresponding to + w. Let us label the origin of our infinite plane by p, which is a ector from the origin of R 3 to the origin of the plane. (See Figure 4.) Now to get from the origin of R 3, to the point whose coordinates on our graph paper are (s,t) first we get to the origin of our plane which is a displacement p, then we need to add to this a displacement of s + tw. Hence we see that the ector p + s + tw has its tip on our plane, if its tail is at (0,0,0). Also, as we ary s and t oer all possible real numbers, positie, negatie, and zero, we get all the points on this infinite plane. This is called a set of parametric equations for the plane, and s and t are called the parameters. w (0,1) (0,2) (0, 1) (1,0) (1,1) (1,2) (2,0) (2,1) (a,b) = p + a + b w p z Figure 4: Planes in Space x y Figure 4. The Plane Through p Containing The Vectors and w

5 LINES AND PLANES IN R 3 5 If we write p =< x 0,y 0,z 0 >, =< 1, 2, 3 >, and w =< w 1,w 2,w 3 > then the parametric equations correspond to three functions of s and t: x = x s + w 1 t y = y s + w 2 t z = z s + w 3 t We get the whole plane for < s,t <, and we can describe just a portion of the plane by restricting the parameters s,t to satisfy a s b and c t d for some a < b and c < d. Just like in the case for a line, parametric equations for a plane are not unique. There are infinitely many ways of describing the same plane in this way and they are all correct. This is easily seen: in the aboe description, we can choose any point p on the plane and any ectors and w contained in the plane. In the map-graph paper analogy, choosing a different p corresponds to choosing a different origin, and choosing different ectors and w corresponds to a different size and shape parallelogram. But it is always still the same infinite plane. Now since and w are both in the plane, the ector n = w is orthogonal to the plane, and is called a normal ector for the plane. Now let us rewrite the equations for a plane using the cross product, and eliminating the parameters s and t in the process. Let r =< x,y,z > be a arying point on the plane. Then r p = s + tw, so it is perpendicular to n (since both and w are) and so we can write: (r p) n = 0 This is sometimes called the ector equation for a plane. It says that if p is a fixed point on the line, and n is a normal ector for the plane, then all other points r on the plane satisfy that equation. This equation is often written in another scalar form: If n =< a, b, c >, then we can write: a(x x 0 ) + b(y y 0 ) + c(z z 0 ) = 0 If we collect together all the constant terms on to the right hand side, we get: ax + by + cz = d for some constant d. The points (x,y,z) which satisfy the equation are all on a plane which has n =< a,b,c > as a normal ector. (Any non-zero multiple of n is another alid normal ector). 5. Summary We hae seen two ways to describe lines and two ways to describe planes: The parametric equations gie all points on the line (plane) by arying the one (two) parameter(s) oer all possible real alues. We say a line is one-dimensional because it only requires one parameter to describe where you are on it. Any line basically looks just like a copy of the real line R. Similarly a plane is two-dimensional because we need two parameters to describe it completely. Any plane looks just like a copy of the ordinary plane R 2. Very soon in this course we will talk about cures and surfaces, which are one and two dimensional objects that aren t flat lines or planes, but which cure around in space. Howeer, on a ery small scale (think of putting them under a microscope) the cures look like lines and the surfaces look like planes.

6 6 LINES AND PLANES IN R 3 The other way we described lines and planes was using the cross product and the dot product. Since all the ectors which are parallel to a fixed ector hae cross product 0 with, the set of all such ectors is a line with direction ector. Similarly since all the ectors which are orthogonal to a fixed ector n hae dot product 0 with n, the set of all such ectors is a plane with normal ector n. Although they won t come up in this course, here are some interesting remarks: The concept of dot product makes sense in any dimension. That is, we can talk about ectors in R n for any positie integer n and define the dot product and use it to measure orthogonality. Howeer, it turns out that the cross product only makes sense in R 3 and R 7. (This is not at all obious). The analogues of the aboe descriptions of lines and planes become a little more complicated in higher dimensions. The parametric equation description for both lines and planes remains true in any dimension. The ector equation for a plane which was (r p) n = 0 in R 3 now describes a flat (n 1)-dimensional object that looks like R n 1. These are called hyperplanes and these are the easiest objects to describe. When n = 3, we hae n 1 = 2 and the hyperplanes are two dimensional. If n > 3, two-dimensional planes get much harder to describe non-parametrically.

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