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Scalar Vector Triple Product

Scalar Vector Triple Product

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01/26/2014

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Scalar Triple Product

The scalar triple product of three vectors a = (a1 , a2 , a3 ), b = (b1 , b2 , b3 ) and c = (c1 , c2 , c3 ) is deﬁned to be a·b×c

which means a · (b × c). (Since there is only one sensible way of performing the given operations there is no real need for brackets in this expression.)

The scalar triple product may be evaluated in two steps by ﬁrst calculating b × c followed by a dot product with a or in one step using a1 a2 a3 a · b × c = b1 b2 b3 c1 c2 c3 For example, the scalar triple product of the three vectors a = (1, 2, 4), b = (2, 1, 0) and c = (0, 5, 3) is 1 2 4 a · b × c = 2 1 0 = (1)(3) − (2)(6) + (4)(10) = 31.

Volume of a Parallelepiped The scalar triple product is signiﬁcant because it represents the volume of a parallelepiped (which is like a partially pushed-over rectangular box). To see this consider the parallelepiped deﬁned by three vectors a. b and c as shown below. T n  ¢  ¢   ¢ ¢   ¢   ¢   ¢ ¢  ¢ ¢ a¢ ¢ ¢    ¢ c    ¢ ¢   ¢    ¢  ¢  ¢   ¢ ¢   ¢   ¢   ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢   ¢   ¢   ¢   ¢  E¢   b .

the base is a parallelogram. .The volume V of the parallelepiped is given by V = (base area)(height). so that the base area is |b×c|. has zero volume. in the n direction.e. b×c |b × c| Coplanar Points and Vectors If three vectors a. b and c are coplanar. then they form a parallelepiped which is ﬂat. Now. i.e. We have V ˆ = |b × c| (a · n) = |b × c| a · = a · b × c. Thus. the three vectors are coplanar iﬀ a × b · c = 0. and thus is equal to the projection of a in the n direction. i. they lie in the same plane.e. i. The height is measured perpendicular to the plane of the base.

a·b×c= 1 3 2 0 therefore the three vectors are not coplanar. B(1.Worked Example 1 Determine if the vectors a = 2i − j + 5k. 0. 5 2 −1 1 −1 = (2)(2) − (−1)(3) + (5)(−1) = 2 = 0. the problem of deciding whether 3 vectors are coplanar. −2) are coplanar.e. 0. . 3) and D(4. C(1. 0). i. The strategy here is to turn the problem into a known one. 3). 1. Worked Example 2 Determine whether the four points A(−2. −3. b = i + j − k and c = 3i + 2j are coplanar.

−3. −3) c =AC= (3. 1.¡     ¡ x     ¡ B ¨ C     ¨  ¡   ¨¨     ¡ ¨¨ ¡ ¨¨     ¡ ¨     ¡ ¨ x¨ E x  A   B     ¡ ! ¡ ¡ x D We construct three vectors from the four points: a =AD= (6. 0) −→ −→ −→ . 0. −5) b =AB= (3.

a·b×c= 3 3 −3 0 therefore the three vectors are not coplanar.The scalar triple product is 6 1 −5 0 −3 = (6)(−9) − (1)(9) + (−5)(−9) = −18 = 0. . The evaluation of a vector triple product can be made easier using the vector identity a × (b × c) = (a · c)b − (a · b)c. b and c is deﬁned to be a × (b × c). Vector triple products are common in mathematical modelling of particle and ﬂuid mechanics. Hence the four points are not coplanar. Vector Triple Product The vector triple product of three vectors a.

Worked Example 3 Given the vectors a = i + 3j − k. b × c = −2 3 −2 7 The left hand side is i j k 1 3 −1 = 2i + 2j + 8k. a × (b × c) = −3 −1 1 . verify the vector identity a × (b × c) = (a · c)b − (a · b)c. Starting with the left hand side: i j k 1 −5 = −3i − j + k. b = −2i + j − 5k and c = 3i − 2j + 7k.

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