FACTOID # 4: Just 1% of the houses in Nevada were built before 1939.
 
 Home   Encyclopedia   Statistics   States A-Z   Flags   Maps   FAQ   About 
   
 
WHAT'S NEW
 

SEARCH ALL

FACTS & STATISTICS    Advanced view

Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:

 

 

(* = Graphable)

 

 


Encyclopedia > Polar coordinates

This article describes some of the common coordinate systems that appear in elementary mathematics. For advanced topics, please refer to coordinate system. For more background, see Cartesian coordinate system.


The coordinates of a point are the components of a tuple of numbers used to represent the location of the point in the plane or space. A coordinate system is a plane or space where the origin and axes are defined so that coordinates can be measured.

Contents

Cartesian coordinates

Image:cartesiancoordinates2D.JPG


In the two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, a point P in the xy-plane is represent by a tuple of two components (x,y).

  • x is the signed distance from the y-axis to the point P, and
  • y is the signed distance from the x-axis to the point P.

In the three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, a point P in the xyz-space is represent by a tuple of three components (x,y,z).

  • x is the signed distance from the yz-plane to the point P,
  • y is the signed distance from the xz-plane to the point P, and
  • z is the signed distance from the xy-plane to the point P.

For advanced topics, please refer to Cartesian coordinate system.


Polar coordinates

The polar coordinate systems are coordinate systems in which a point is identified by a distance from some fixed feature in space and one or more subtended angles.


The term polar coordinates often refers to circular coordinates (two-dimensional). Other commonly used polar coordinates are cylindrical coordinates and spherical coordinates (both three-dimensional).


Circular coordinates

The circular coordinate system, often referred to simply as the polar coordinate system, is a two-dimensional polar coordinate system, defined by an origin, O, and a semi-infinite line L leading from this point. L is also called the polar axis. In terms of the Cartesian coordinate system, one usually picks O to be the origin (0,0) and L to be the positive x-axis (the right half of the x-axis).


Image:CircularCoordinates.png


In the circular coordinate system, a point P is represented by a tuple of two components (r,θ). Using terms of the Cartesian coordinate system,

  • (radius) is the distance from the origin to the point P, and
  • (azimuth) is the angle between the positive x-axis and the line from the origin to the point P.

Cylindrical coordinates

The cylindrical coordinate system is a three-dimensional polar coordinate system.


Image:CylindricalCoordinates.png


In the cylindrical coordinate system, a point P is represented by a tuple of three components (r,θ,h). Using terms of the Cartesian coordinate system,

  • (radius) is the distance between the z-axis and the point P,
  • (azimuth or longitude) is the angle between the positive x-axis and the line from the origin to the point P projected onto the xy-plane, and
  • h (height) is the signed distance from xy-plane to the point P.
Note: some sources use z for h; there is no "right" or "wrong" convention, but it is necessary to be aware of the convention being used.

Cylindrical coordinates involve some redundancy; θ loses its significance if r = 0.


Cylindrical coordinates are useful in analyzing systems that are symmetrical about an axis. For example the infinitely long cylinder that has the Cartesian equation x2 + y2 = c2 has the very simple equation r = c in cylindrical coordinates.


Spherical coordinates

The spherical coordinate system is a three-dimensional polar coordinate system.


Image:Spherical_Coordinates.png


In the spherical coordinate system, a point P is represented by a tuple of three components (ρ,φ,θ). Using terms of the Cartesian coordinate system,

  • (radius) is the distance between the point P and the origin,
  • (colatitude or polar angle) is the angle between the z-axis and the line from the origin to the point P, and
  • (azimuth or longitude) is the angle between the positive x-axis and the line from the origin to the point P projected onto the xy-plane.
Note: some sources interchange the symbols φ and θ relative to this article, or use r for ρ; there is no widely accepted convention.

The spherical coordinate system also involves some redundancy; φ loses its significance if ρ = 0, and θ loses its significance if ρ = 0 or φ=0 or φ=180.


To construct a point from its spherical coordinates: from the origin, go ρ along the positive z-axis, rotate φ about y-axis toward the direction of the positive x-axis, and rotate θ about the z-axis toward the direction of the positive y-axis.


Spherical coordinates are useful in analyzing systems that are symmetrical about a point; a sphere that has the Cartesian equation x2 + y2 + z2 = c2 has the very simple equation ρ = c in spherical coordinates.


Spherical coordinates are the natural coordinates for physical situations where there is spherical symmetry. In such a situation, one can describe waves using spherical harmonics. Another application is ergonomic design, where ρ is the arm length of a stationary person and the angles describe the direction of the arm as it reaches out.


The concept of spherical coordinates can be extended to higher dimensional spaces and are then referred to as hyperspherical coordinates.


See also: Celestial coordinate system


Conversion between coordinate systems

Cartesian and circular

where u0 is the Heaviside step function with u0(0) = 0 and sgn is the signum function. Here the u0 and sgn functions are being used as "logical" switches which are used as shorthand substitutes for several if ... then statements. Some computer languages include a bivariate arctangent function atan2(y,x) which finds the value for θ in the correct quadrant given x and y.


Cartesian and cylindrical

Cartesian and spherical

Cylindrical and spherical

See also

For spherical coordinates:
Credit to original articles:
  • Polar coordinates (http:/w/wiki.phtml?title=Polar_coordinates&redirect=no)
  • Cylindrical coordinate system (http:/w/wiki.phtml?title=Cylindrical_coordinate_system&redirect=no)
  • Spherical coordinate system (http:/w/wiki.phtml?title=Spherical_coordinate_system&redirect=no)

External links

  • Frank Wattenberg has made some nice animations illustrating spherical (http://www.math.montana.edu/frankw/ccp/multiworld/multipleIVP/spherical/body.htm) and cylindrical (http://www.math.montana.edu/frankw/ccp/multiworld/multipleIVP/cylindrical/body.htm) coordinate systems.
  • http://www.physics.oregonstate.edu/bridge/papers/spherical.pdf is a description of the different conventions in use for naming components of spherical coordinates, along with a proposal for standardizing this.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Polar coordinates (3425 words)
Polar coordinates of a point P. From polar to cartesian coordinates.
From a polar equation to a cartesian equation
To convert the equation of K to a cartesian equation, we appeal on the properties of Polar equation of a conic section.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

COMMENTARY     


Share your thoughts, questions and commentary here
Your name
Your comments

Want to know more?
Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:

 


Press Releases |  Feeds | Contact
The Wikipedia article included on this page is licensed under the GFDL.
Images may be subject to relevant owners' copyright.
All other elements are (c) copyright NationMaster.com 2003-5. All Rights Reserved.
Usage implies agreement with terms, 1022, m