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THE DOT (INNER) AND CROSS (VECTOR) PRODUCTS


The Dot product
There are two important products involving vectors: the dot (inner or scalar) product and the
cross (or vector) product and both operations arise naturally in many applications. As their names
imply, the scalar product results in a real number whereas the cross product results in another vector.
We begin with the dot product:

The dot product at this time is a completely geometrical thing. It is determined be measuring lengths
and an angle, both geometrical concepts. Let us see how it naturally arises as a projection problem.
Let u and u be vectors as shown below (in space or the plane). We are interested in finding the
length of the projection of u on u (think of it as the shadow that u casts along u), which in the figure
is denoted by l.







Figure 1
Clearly, the length l is related to uand 0 by the cosine function: l = [u[ cos 0. We are done! That
is all we wanted. If we knew the length of u and the angle 0 we would perform the operation above
and obtain the answer. However, what if all we are given are the vectors u and u? Is there a way to
obtain l if we only know the vectors components?
Yes. Here is our first important result of this section:



This is a remarkable result because it tell us that there is no need to measure the angle between the
vectors - all we need to know is their components. We will show that these two versions of the dot
product yield the same number.
Example 1 Find u u if u = (1, -1,S) and u = (u,1,4)
Solution
u u = 1 u + (-1) 1 + S 4 = 11
Example 2 Find u u if u = (-1,1,2) and u = (S,1, -4)
Solution
u u = (-1) S +1 1 +2 (-4) = -1u

u u = [u[ [u[ cos 0
The dot product: Let u and u be two vectors and let 0 be the angle between them, defined to be
the angle generated when one vector is rotated toward the other through an angle in the range
|u, n]. Then the dot product of u and u, denoted by u u, is given by
0
u
u
l
a h = o
1
b
1
+o
2
b
2
+o
3
b
3

If a = (o
1
, o
2
, o
3
) and h = (b
1
, b
2
, b
3
) Then
2

Example 3 Find u u if a = (S, -6) and h = (2,1)
Solution
a h = S 2 +(-6) 1 = u
Example 4 Find the dot product of the vectors x = 2| + u.Sj and y = j + u.2Sk
Solution
x y = 2 u +u.S 1 +u u.2S = u.S
So the dot product can be any real number, positive, negative, or zero.
Before establishing the equivalence of the two versions of the dot product, let us see how it helps us
with the projection problem.
We found that l = [u[ cos 0 gives us the desired projection. Observe that we can get u in the
picture as follows:
l = [u[ cos 0 =
[u[ [u[ cos 0
[u[
; u =
We have a formula that does not rely on the measurement of an angle:
l =
u u
[u[
=
o
1
b
1
+o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
[u[

a completely algebraic formula! We call l the component of u along u and denote it by comp
u
u:
comp
u
u =
u u
[u[

So the dot product naturally arises in this context.
Example 5 find comp
h
a in the figure below given that [a[ = 8, [h[ = 1u, and 0 = SS
o
.






Solution
comp
h
a =
a h
[h[

=
[a[ [h[ cos 0
[h[

= 8 cos SS
= 4.S9
So the length of the shadow is approximately 4.59 linear units (cm for example). Notice that we did
not even bother to use [h[ since it cancels out anyway.
Example 6 find comp
u
u in the figure below given that [a[ = 8, [h[ = 1u, and 0 = 12u
o
.





0
a
b
0
u
u
[
l
3

Solution
this is very similar to the previous example but 0 > 9u so the shadow of u lies over an
extension of u, as shown. It is tempting to use the angle [ instead of using 0, in which case
the projections length would be given by l = u cos [ = 4 units.
On the other hand, the definition tells us that
comp
u
u =
[u[ [u[ cos 0
[u[

=
8 1u cos 1Su
1u

comp
u
u =
[u[ [u[ cos 0
[u[

= -4
which is the correct answer and disagrees with our previous result. The key to mathematics
is to understand its definitions. They say precisely what is to be done and anything you do
outside their scope, even if you think you are simplifying the problem, can lead to trouble.
So unless you are certain that what you are doing is something logically equivalent to what a
definition states, stick to the definition.
Example 7 Find the component of A = | + j on the vector B = k
Solution
We don not have the angle between the vectors, but we can use the algebraic version of
the dot product:
comp
B
A =
A B
[B[
=
(1,1,u) (u,u,1)
1

= u
This makes sense because A is a vector on the x-y plane whereas B is one the basis unit
vectors the one along the z-axis and is therefore perpendicular to A.
Now let us see if the two versions of the dot product are equivalent, first in R
2
. Consider the
following illustration:







Figure 2
Writing the vectors in trigonometric form:
u = u cos 0
2
| + u sin 0
2
j
u = : cos 0
1
| + : sin0
1
j
Where we use u and : for the magnitudes of u and u, respectively.
u
u
0
1
0
2
0
2
- 0
1
4

The algebraic version of the dot product says that
u u = u
1
:
1
+ u
2
:
2
+u
3
:
3

Applying this formula to u and u:
u u = u cos 0
2
: cos 0
1
+ u sin 0
2
: sin 0
1

= u:(cos 0
2
cos 0
1
+ sin0
2
sin 0
1
)
The term in parenthesis is cos(0
2
- 0
1
), that is, the cosine of the angle between the vectors. Thus,
[u[ [u[ cos 0
where 0 = 0
2
-0
1
. Notice that because the cosine is an even function
cos(0
2
-0
1
) = cos(0
1
- 0
2
)
so it does not matter in which order we take the difference.
The general case is treated a bit different. In the figure below, we use the vectors to form a triangle
which now may be in R
3
. By applying the law of cosines, we obtain an algebraic expression that
connects the angle to the magnitude of the vectors.






Figure 3
Note: c is the vector that added to a gives us b: a + c = b. Therefore, c = b a.
Now we apply the law of cosines:
[c[
2
= [a[
2
+ [h[
2
- 2[a[ [h[ cos 0
Since we want a connection between the geometric formula and an algebraic one involving the
components of the vectors, let a = (o
1
, o
2
, o
3
) and h = (b
1
, b
2
, b
3
). Then,
[(b
1
- o
1
, b
2
- o
2
, b
3
-o
3
)[
2
= [(o
1
, o
2
, o
3
)[
2
+[(b
1
, b
2
, b
3
)[
2

-2[(o
1
, o
2
, o
3
)[ [(b
1
, b
2
, b
3
)[ cos 0
From which we obtain:
(b
1
- o
1
)
2
+ (b
2
- o
2
)
2
+ (b
3
-o
3
)
2
= o
1
2
+ o
2
2
+ o
3
2
+b
1
2
+b
2
2
+ b
3
2

-2_o
1
2
+ o
2
2
+ o
3
2
_b
1
2
+ b
2
2
+ b
3
2
cos 0
Expanding,
b
1
2
-2o
1
b
1
+o
1
2
+ b
2
2
- 2o
2
b
2
+ o
2
2
+o
3
2
-2o
3
b
3
+ o
3
2
= o
1
2
+ o
2
2
+ o
3
2
+ b
1
2
+b
2
2
+b
3
2

-2_o
1
2
+ o
2
2
+ o
3
2
_b
1
2
+ b
2
2
+ b
3
2
cos 0
Cancelling from both sides of the equation:
-2o
1
b
1
-2o
2
b
2
- 2o
3
b
3
= -2_o
1
2
+ o
2
2
+ o
3
2
_b
1
2
+ b
2
2
+ b
3
2
cos 0
From which it follows that
o
1
b
1
+ o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
= [a[ [h[ cos 0
a
b
c = b a
0
5

So there we have it. These two versions are equivalent and, depending on the information provided,
one can be a better option than the other.
This result has some interesting consequences. First observe that, solving for cos 0,
cos 0 =
o
1
b
1
+ o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
[a[ [h[

Hence, if we know the components of the vectors we can find the cosine of the angle between them
and therefore the angle itself.
Example 8 The figure below shows two vectors in space. Find the angle between them.







Figure 4
Solution
the given vectors define a plane in space. The cosine of the angle between them is given by
cos 0 =
o
1
b
1
+ o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
[a[ [h[

where a = (S,u,S) and h = (1,2,1). Substituting:
cos 0 =
S +u +S
S4 6

=
4
S1

To find 0, we use the cos
1

function: 0 = cos
-1
4
51
= SS.9
We will see the dot product play an important role outside geometry soon.
In the previous example, would make any difference whether we let a = (S,u,S) and h = (1,2,1) as
opposed to h = (S,u,S) and a = (1,2,1)? No, the scalar product is commutative:



If two vectors are perpendicular, then the angle between them is 9u
o
. A fancy word for
perpendicular is orthogonal. The reason for this word is because as we said in the previous lecture,
not everything that is a vector is a directed line segment. It would not make sense for example to
say that two polynomials are perpendicular, but as we saw earlier certain sets of polynomials form
vector spaces so they are vectors. Hence the need for the new term.





Orthogonal Vectors
Two non-zero vectors a and h are orthogonal (perpendicular) if, and only if, a h = u
The 0 vector is considered to be orthogonal to every vector.
(S,u,S)
(1,2,1) 0
a h = h a
For any two vectors a and h,
6

This result follows immediately from the relation
cos 0 =
o
1
b
1
+ o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
[a[ [h[

First, if a and h are nonzero and a h = u, then cos 0 = u = 0 = 9u.
On the other hand, if a and h are nonzero and 0 = 9u, then
o
1
b
1
+ o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
[a[ [h[
= u
which implies that o
1
b
1
+ o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
= u or a h = u.
Example 9 Determine if the vectors A = (-1, -4,2) and B = (6,u,S) are orthogonal.
Solution
A B = (-1) 6 + (-4) u + 2 S = u
Yes, they are orthogonal.
Example 10 (application) A roof top has the shape shown in the figure below. Find the angle
between the two solid lines.













Figure 5
Solution
Ok, my sense of perspective is not the best, but I think (or hope) you get the point. Let us
introduce a coordinate system as shown:














Figure 6

2u
1S
4
4
2u
1S
z
y
x
2u
1S
4
4
2u
1S
7

Observe that one of the vectors lies on the y-z plane and the other has a negative x-
component. The vector on the y-z plane can be described by a = u| + Sj +4k. The other
vector, which we denote by h, starts at the origin and ends at (-7.S,S,4). Therefore,
h = (-7.S,S,4).
The hard part is over. Now we simply apply the formula
cos 0 =
o
1
b
1
+ o
2
b
2
+ o
3
b
3
[a[ [h[


to obtain
cos 0 =
u (-7.S) +S S +4 4
6.4u 9.86
= u.6497
Thus,
0 = cos
-1
u.6497 = 49.47
Direction Angles and Cosines
For vectors in R
3
it is sometimes convenient to describe their direction by means of direction angles
and direction cosines. The direction angles of a vector are the angles that the vector makes the
coordinate axes. The direction cosines are, of course, the cosine of these angles.















Figure 7
What happens when we take the dot product of a vector a and a basis vector? Say we compute a |;
since the angle between a and | is ,
a | = [a[ [|[ cos = [a[ cos
On the other hand,
a | = (o
1
, o
2
, o
3
) (1,u,u) = o
1

Thus,
o
1
= [a[ cos
or
cos =
o
1
[a[

Similarly,
cos [ =
o
2
[a[
anu cos y =
o
3
[a[

These are called the direction cosines of the vector a and the angles o, [, and y are called its
direction angles.
y
[
o
a
y
x
z
8

Example 11 Find the direction cosines of the vector -S| + Sj + k
Solution
cos =
-S
SS

cos [ =
S
SS

cos y =
1
SS

The direction angles are o = 147.69, [ = S9.SS, and y = 8u.27.
The importance of these numbers is the following: they form the components of a unit vector in the
direction of its vector a = (o
1
, o
2
, o
3
). Observe:
Since
cos =
o
1
[a[
; cos [ =
o
2
[a[
; cos y =
o
3
[a[

We have
cos
2
+ cos
2
[ + cos
2
y = _
o
1
[a[
]
2
+ _
o
2
[a[
]
2
+_
o
3
[a[
]
2

=
o
1
2
+o
2
2
+ o
3
2
([a[)
2

= 1
Therefore the vector K = (cos , cos [ , cos y) is a unit vector. What is its direction? We have:
o
1
= [a[ cos ; o
2
= [a[ cos [ ; o
3
= [a[ cos y
Hence,
(o
1
, o
2
, o
3
) = [a[(cos , cos [ , cos y)
which says that the vector a and the vector K are parallel, and since K is a unit vector we put a hat
on it and write:
K

= (cos , cos [ , cos y)


Work Done by a Force
Suppose that a constant force F acts on an object as it moves through a distance s along a straight
line. A measure of the amount of work,W, done by the force is given by the product of the parallel
component of the force along the displacement and the magnitude of that displacement. This is
how work is defined in physics.



where F
|
is the component of F along the direction of motion. This is not a dot product yet! Both F
|

and s are scalars and the product is just a product of real numbers. However, we can make the
definition more precise and convey more information with it if we introduce the vector x which
represents the displacement vector relative to a pre-assigned origin. The figure below illustrates this.





w = F
|
s
9









Figure 8
The force F is decomposed into two components: F
J
which represents the component perpendicular
to displacement, and F
|
which is the component parallel to the displacement. We have:
F
|
= [F[ cos 0
F
J
= [F[ sin 0
Thus,
w = [F[ cos 0 s
= [F[ [x[ cos 0
or equivalently,



Since u 0 18u, the work done by a force is positive when the force acts in the direction of
motion, zero when the force is perpendicular to the displacement and negative when the force acts in
the direction opposing motion (a retarding force).
Example 12 Suppose that a force F = (2, -4,u) acts on an object as it moves along a straight line
from point (1,u,1) to point (S,4,6). What is the work done by the force?
Solution
The work done by the force is w = F x. F is constant force and s is the displacement
vector from point (1,u, -2) to point (S,4,6). Careful here, you must have the correct
displacement vector, which in this case is given by x = (S -1,4 -u,6 -(-2)) = (2,4,8).
Thus, the work done is
w = (2, -4,u) (2,4,8)
= 4 - 16 +u
= -12
The unit of work is the Joule when displacement is measured in meters (m) and force in Newtons
(Nt.) The Unit is the ft-lb (foot-pound) when displacement is measured in feet and force in pounds.
In the previous example, in the metric system the work done by a force (2, -4,u) Nt. over a distance
of 84 meters is -12 Joules. 84 meters is the distance from (1,u, -2) to (S,4,6).
Example 13 Of all the force with which we have to live, gravity if by far the most familiar one. We
all have fallen down and know that we cannot escape its influence.
Since gravity is a force, we can describe it by a vector, and if we choose up as the positive z
direction, then the force of gravity on a mass m is given by F = mgk where g is the acceleration
due to the force of gravity near the surface of the earth, whose magnitude is 32 ft/sec
2
in the English
system or 9.8 m/sec
2
in the metric system.
Which of the following would result in the largest value for W, the work done by gravity?
F
s
s
0 F
|
F
J

w = F x
10

A) an object moving horizontally a distance of 40 meters, B) an object moving vertically downward
a distance of 4 meters, or C) an object moving straight up a distance of 1u meters.
Solution
A) Since the force acts along the vertical direction, it does no work at all on an object that
moves horizontally (in this case 0 = 9u so cos 0 = u and therefore w = u).

B) Vertically down means we can represent the displacement by the vector s= 4k so the
work done is w = (-mgk) (-4k) = 4mg, since k k = 1.

C) Here s = 10k so w = (-mgk) (1uk) = -1umg, a negative number which is, of
course, less than the positive number 4mg.
Thus, the largest value of W occurs when the object moves down, in the same direction as
gravity:
w
C
< w
A
< w
B

Example 14 In the figure below, a 1uu-lb box is moved up a 2u-ft ramp a distance of 9 feet by an
8u-lb force that is always parallel to the incline. Find A) the work done by the force, and B) the
work done by the force of gravity.




Solution
A) The box moves a distance of 9 feet up the ramp. The 8u-lb force is parallel to this
displacement. Therefore,
w = F x = 8u 9 cos u
= 72u ft-lb
B) This is more tricky. We need to calculate the angle between the force of gravity and the
displacement vector. A free-body diagram will help:






w = F x = [mg[ [r[ cos 12u
= 1uu 9 (-u.S)
= 4Su ft-lb



[F[ = 8u
Su
mg
r
Su
mg
6u
12u
12u
[r[ = 9
[mg[ = 1uu
11

The Cross Product
The dot product of two vectors gives rise to a scalar, a real number. It is also useful to define a
product that gives rise to a vector. This vector is called the cross product and, just like the dot
product, it has a geometric definition and an equivalent algebraic one.
The geometric point of view:
If a and bare vectors and 0 is the smallest angle between them, then their cross product, denoted by
a h, is the vector ([o[ [b[ sin 0)n where n is a unit vector perpendicular to both a and h and
in a direction such that the ordered set {a, h, n] forms a right-handed system. Thus,



What we mean by ordered set {a, h, n] is that order matters; the sets {a, h, n] and {h, a, n] are equal
as sets, but not as ordered sets. And what is meant by right-handed system is that they form a
right-handed system identical to the one defined by the basis vectors {|, j, k].
Example 15 Find the direction of a h and h a for the vectors shown below. Assume that both
lie on the plane of the page.







Solution
First a h. Point your right-hand fingers along the direction of a and rotate them toward
h. Your right-hand thumb points in the direction of a h, which would be into the page.







Now for h a: point your right-hand fingers along the direction of h and curl them toward
a. Your right-hand thumb points in the direction of h a.







In both cases the magnitude of the cross product is [o[ [b[ sin 0, however the vectors
point in opposite directions. Thus, the cross product is not commutative:
a h = -h a
a h = [a[ [h[ sin0 n
a
h
a
h
We usean arrows butt to represent
vectorsthatgoesintothepage.
a h
a
h
We use an arrows tip to represent
vectorsthatcomeoutofthepage.
h a
12

This looks like a very artificial and capricious definition, but there is a good reason for it; many
physical quantities behave in exactly the same way. For example, when a charged particle of charge
q enters a magnetic field B with velocity u, it experiences a force F given by
1

F = qu B
This is called the Lorentz force, in honor of the Dutch physicist H.A. Lorentz (1853 1928).
As it turns out, we can also obtain the cross product algebraically:
The algebraic point of view:
The cross product is also given by the determinant
a h _
| j k
o
1
o
2
o
3
b
1
b
2
b
3
_ = |
o
2
o
3
b
2
b
3
-j
o
1
o
3
b
1
b
3
+ k
o
1
o
2
o
1
b
2

= (o
2
b
3
- o
3
b
2
)| - (o
1
b
3
- o
3
b
1
)j +(o
1
b
2
-o
2
b
1
)k
Since determinants have the property that their sign is reversed by a row exchange,
a h = _
| j k
o
1
o
2
o
3
b
1
b
2
b
3
_ = -_
| j k
b
1
b
2
b
3
o
1
o
2
o
3
_ = -h a
As a refresher, recall that the determinant of the 2 2 matrix A = j
o b
c J
[ denoted by uet(A) is
defined to be
uet(A) = oJ -bc
We also use the notation

o b
c J
= oJ - bc
Example 16 Find (u,1,2) (2, -1,u).
Solution
(u,1,2) (2, -1,u) = _
| j k
u 1 2
2 -1 u
_ = |
1 2
-1 u
- j
u 2
2 u
+k
u 1
2 -1

= |(1 u - (-1) 2) - j(u u -2 2) + k(u (-1) - 2 1)
= 2| + 4j -2k
Example 17 Find the cross product of two vectors in the y-z plane shown below.












1
When dealing with physical quantities one must always be mindful of the units being used.
x
60
o

[a[= 10 [h[ = 4
y
z
13

Solution
We are given the magnitudes and the angle between the vectors so we know [a h[; it is
[a[ [h[ sin0 = 1u 4 sin 6u. What direction does it have? Cross a into b by pointing
the fingers of your right hand along a and curling them toward b, your thumb point in the
direction of a h.
Since h lies on the y-z plane, this direction is along the positive x-axis. Therefore, the
direction of the cross product is that of i:
a h = [a[ [h[ sin0 | = (1u 4 sin6u)|
= 2uS|
Example 18 Find the magnitude of the cross product of the vectors shown below:








Solution
we again have the magnitudes of the vectors, but we need the angle between them. The
angle shown might not necessarily be it; we need to figure it out. Let us slide A so that its
tail coincides with that of r, as shown below:









What do you know! The angle given is, in fact, equal to the angle between the vectors by
the alternate interior angles result from geometry. Thus,
[r A[ = 1u 7 sin4S
=
7u
2

What direction would this cross product have? If the vectors r and A are on the page, the
cross product point out of the page.
Example 19 If u = (-S,u, t) and u = (2,4, -t), find u u. Is there a value of t for which u u =
?
Solution
u u = _
| j k
-S u t
2 4 -t
_ = |(u -4t) - j(St - 2t) + k(-12 -u)
= -4t| - tj -12k
45
o

[A[ = 7
[r[ = 1u
[A[ = 7
[r[ = 1u
4S
o

4S
o

r A
14

Since the k-component is never zero, this vector will never be the zero vector.
Example 20 (area of parallelogram) Find a formula for the area of a parallelogram defined by two
vectors
Solution
Let a = (o
1
, o
2
, o
3
) and h = (b
1
, b
2
, b
3
) be two non-collinear vectors. Then they define a
parallelogram:






The areaA of the parallelogram is A = lcngtb o a timc bcigbt b. The problem is that, although
we can compute the length of vector a, we are not given b. All we are given are the vectors a and
h. However, notice that
A = [a[ b
= [a[ [h[ sin 0
= [a h[
Thus, the area of the parallelogram defined by a and h is the norm of their cross product. Nice!
Volume of a Parallelepiped
A parallelepiped is a six-faced solid the opposite faces of which are parallel. Think of it as a three
dimensional version of a parallelogram. Here is the picture:









I = bcb
The volume of this solid can be shown to be I = b c b which is the area of the base time the
height. We can also obtain a formula using vectors; first, let us introduce the vectors as shown
below:







Figure 9
0
a
h
a
h
b
0
Viewedfromthetop
h
b
c
c
b
c
a
h
bc
0
15

The base of this solid is defined by the vectors b and c. Looking at it from above, its base looks like
this:






Figure 10
The area of this parallelogram is given by
[h[[c[ sin[
which is just [h c[. Another look at figure 1u shows that h is nothing but [a[ cos 0. Thus, the
volume is given by
I = orco o bosc b
= [h c[[a[ cos 0
= (h c) a
Since volume must be a nonnegative number, we have the following result:
The volume generated by the non-coplanar vectors a, b, and c is given by
I = |a (h c)|
The quantity a (h c) is called the triple product of the vectors a, h, and c and it can be shown that
a (h c) = _
o
1
o
2
o
3
b
1
b
2
b
3
c
1
c
2
c
3
_
Example 21 Find the volume of the solid whose edges are defined by the vectors (2,1,u), (u,4,u),
and (1,1,S).
Solution
Let h = (2,1,u), c = (u,4,u) and a = (1,1,S). Then vectors b and c define the base
parallelogram, but any other order would have done just as well. First we compute the triple
product
a (h c) = _
o
1
o
2
o
3
b
1
b
2
b
3
c
1
c
2
c
3
_ = _
1 1 S
2 1 u
u 4 u
_ = 4u
The volume of the parallelepiped is
I = |4u| = 4u
Torque
When a force acts on an object, it has two effects: it accelerates it along its line of action, and/or it
makes it rotate about a fixed point.







Figure 11
c
b

[c[ sin [
F CN
16

This force will accelerate the block along its line of action. On the other hand, the force in the figure below
will produce a rotation about axis l:












Figure 12
The rotational effect relative to a given point P caused by a force is measured by its torque, which is
a vector defined by
z = r F
where r is the position vector relative to P of the point at which the force is applied, and F is the
force. Graphically,








In the figure above, r F points into the page
To appreciate the need to include r in the definition of torque, try to open a door by pushing it near
its hinges; the closer you are to them the harder it will be. In fact, you might not even be able to
open the door.
The angle 0 is equally important. Consider the three cases shown in the figure below where a door
is subjected to a force at the opposite en of the hinge side. The orientation of that force will have
very different effects:












Figure 13
P
0
r
F
r F
Top View
F
S
Door
hinge
F
2
0
F
1
This force will produce a
rotation about line l.
F
r
l
17

Force 1 and 2 will tend to make the door swing counterclockwise while force S clockwise. Also,
force 1 will be more effective that the other two in producing a rotation. Now move one of these
forces closer to the hinge and its turning effect will be diminished.
So from this discussion, it is clear that there are at least three factors we need to consider: how
powerful is the force, where is it applied, and at what angle is it applied. A convenient way to
incorporate all these elements is by the product
[F[ [r[ sin 0
Which we immediately recognize as the magnitude of the cross product r F. This is the reason
why we defined the torque as we did.
Notice that this definition highlights the fact that the only component of the force responsible for
rotation is F
J
:









Figure 14
One can see that F
J
= [F[ sin 0. Thus, the magnitude of the torque is also give by
= r F
J

If all we want is the magnitude of the torque, this formula will do.


Example 22 A 2u lb. force acts on a wheel barrel as shown below. What torque does this force
exert about point O? Assume that it is applied at a point 4.S feet from O.






Solution
First, let us simplify the picture by including only the pertinent information. This is the free
body diagram the skeleton of the problem.





The position vector has length 4.S ft. and acts at 18
o
to the horizontal. If you want to do this
problem using components, then we have:
r = 4.S cos 18 | + 4.Ssin 18 j
F = u| + 2uj

O
18
o
2u lb.
Top View
Door
hinge
F

0
F
J
r

F
|
O
18
o
20 lb.
4.Sft.
18

The torque is given by
r F = _
| j k
4.S cos 18 4.Ssin 18 u
u 2u u
_
= u| + uj +8S.6k
The magnitude of the torque is approximately 8S.6 ft-lb and its direction is out of the page.
An alternate way of computing the torque about a point (mostly used in engineering textbooks) is by
multiplying the magnitude of the force times the moment arm, which is the distance from the point
about which the torque is being calculated to the line of action of the force:










The figure shows that H = [r[ sin0. Therefore,
[r F[ = [F[ [r[ sin 0
= [F[ H


In the previous example, we can use this approach by identifying the moment arm:







You can clearly see that force times moment arm is given by 2u 4.S cos 18 = 8S.6 ft-lb.
Example 23 Find the magnitude of the torque relative to point A in the figure shown below. Assume
the force acts horizontally.






Solution
The free body diagram is shown to the right. In it, we see that the moment arm is 8ft.
Therefore,
The magnitude of the torque is given by [F[ times M.
Moment arm M
r
0
F
Line of action of the force
0
2uu lb
8 ft
12 ft
A
2uu lb
8 ft
12 ft
A
M
r
Line of action of the force
O
18
o
2u lb.
4.5ft.
Forces line of
action
M
19

= 8 2uu = 1,6uu ft-lb
Exercise: Solve this problem by vectors.
Properties of the Dot and Cross product
The following properties are a direct consequence of the definitions of the dot and cross products:









The last one is particularly important and you will encounter it again if you study electromagnetism.
Exercise Why dont we have a (h c) = (a h) c ?
Let a, h and c be vectors and k a scalar. Then,
1) (ka) h = a (kh) = k(a h)
2) a (h + c) = (a h) + (a c)
3) a (h c) = (a h) c
4) a (h c) = (a c)h - (a h)c