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Chapter One: Vectors in R3

1 The Cartesian coordinate system

A point P in the space (resp. in the plane) can be associated to an ordered 3-tuple of
real numbers (x1 , x2 , x3 ) (resp. an ordered pair (x1 , x2 )) via the Cartesian coordinate
system. The Cartesian coordinate system consists of three mutually perpendicular
number lines (resp. two mutually perpendicular number lines, if it is in the plane),
called the x-axis, y-axis and the z-axis, whose origins coincides at a single point,
called the origin of the coordinate system. Click here to see the picture and the
explanation of the Cartesian coordinate system. Hence, we write the space as R3 =
{(x1 , x2 , x3 ); x1 , x2 , x3 ∈ R} (resp. the plane as R2 = {(x1 , x2 ); x1 , x2 ∈ R}), where
R is the set of real numbers. In this course, we usually do not distinguish the point
P and the ordered 3-tuple of real numbers (x1 , x2 , x3 ).

2 Vectors in R3
A vector is a line segment with a direction. A point P = (x1 , x2 , x3 ) uniquely cor-
responds to v = OP ~ , which visualized geometrically as the arrow pointing from the
origin O to the point P . In this way, there is one-to-one correspondence between
the vectors v in R3 and the points P ∈ R3 (as well as an ordered 3-tuple of real
numbers (x1 , x2 , x3 )). In this course, we usually do not distinguish the point P ,
an ordered 3-tuple of real numbers (x1 , x2 , x3 ), as well as the vector v. We also
use R3 to denote the set of vectors v in the space. On R3 , we can do addition
v + w = (x1 + y1 , x2 + y2 , x3 + y3 ), if v = (x1 , x2 , x3 ), w = (y1 , y2 , y3 ), and scalar
multiplication λv = (λx1 , λx2 , λx3 ) if v = (x1 , x2 , x3 ). The set R3 forms a vector
space with the addition and scalar multiplication defined above.

Definition 1.1 We define the length of the vector v = (x1 , x2 , x3 ) to be

q
kvk = x21 + x22 + x23 .

We say that v is a unit vector if it has length 1, i.e. kvk = 1.

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3 The dot product in R3
Definition 1.2 The dot product of two vectors v = (x1 , x2 , x3 ), w = (y1 , y2 , y3 ) is
defined as
v · w = x 1 y1 + x2 y2 + x3 y3 .

Some properties of dot product:

(a) kvk2 = v · v;
(b) v · w = kvkkwk cos θ, where θ is angle between v and w;
(c) v · w = 0 if and only if v and w are orthogonal;
(d) |v · w| ≤ kvkkwk (Schwarz inequality);
(e) v · w = w · v;
(f) u · (v + w) = u · v + u · w;
(g) kv + wk ≤ kvk + kwk (the triangle inequality).

4 The cross product in R3

Definition 1.3 The cross product of two vectors v = (x1 , x2 , x3 ), w = (y1 , y2 , y3 )
is the vector given by

v × w = (x2 y3 − x3 y2 , x3 y1 − x1 y3 , x1 y2 − x2 y1 ).

(a) v × w is orthogonal to v and w if the vectors are linearly independent, and

(b) v × w = −w × v, in particular v × v = 0;
(c) If the vectors are both nonzero, then

kv × wk = kvkkwk sin θ,

where θ is angle between v and w;

(d) v × w = 0 if and only if v and w are linearly dependent;
(e) |u · (v × w)| is the volume of a parallelepiped spanned by the vectors u, v
and w.

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Let i = (1, 0, 0), j = (0, 1, 0), k = (0, 0, 1). Then we have (called the right-hand

(1.1) i × j = k, k × i = j, j × k = i.

We can use (1.1) to calculate the cross product. For example, to calculate v × w
for v = (1, 2, 3), w = (2, 5, 1), we write v = i + 2j + 3k, w = 2i + 5j + k, then, using
(1.1) and the fact that i × i = j × j = k × k = 0, we have

v×w = (i + 2j + 3k) × (2i + 5j + k)

= 5i × bf j + i × k + 4j × i + 2j × k + 6k × i + 15k × j
= 5k − j − 4k + 2i + 6j − 15i
= −13i + 5j + k.

5 Differentiation and integration for vector valued

functions
A vector valued function u(t) in R3 assignes, for each t ∈ [a, b] a unique vector value
u(t) ∈ R3 . Hence
u(t) = (x1 (t), x2 (t), x3 (t)), t ∈ [a, b],
where x1 , x2 , x3 are functions of variable t. We define the diifferentiation of u(t) as
du(t)
u0 (t) = = (x01 (t), x02 (t), x03 (t)).
dt
We recall the following differentiation rules for vector valued functions:

(cu(t))0 = cu0 (t)

(f (t)u(t))0 = f (t)u0 (t) + f 0 (t)u(t)
(u(t) · v(t))0 = u(t) · v0 (t) + u0 (t) · v(t)
(u(t) × v(t))0 = u(t) × v0 (t) + u0 (t) × v(t)
[u(f (t))]0 = f 0 (t)u0 (f (t)).

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Similarily, we define the integration of u(t) over [a, b] as
!
Z b Z b Z b Z b
u(t)dt = x1 (t)dt, x2 (t)dt, x3 (t)dt .
a a a a