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# UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

## SCHOOL OF MATHEMATICS AND STATISTICS

MATH 1131
MATHEMATICS 1A ALGEBRA.
Section 2: - Vector Geometry.
In Chapter 1, see looked at the rudiments of vector geometry. We now have enough machinery to study this subject in greater depth.
Distances and Lengths:
We saw earlier that: in higher
lows:

a1
a2

Definition: A vector x = ..
.
an

## The distance between two points A and B in Rn will be

as the length of the vec defined
a1
a2

tor AB, in other words, if A has position vector a = .. and B has position vector
.
an

b1
b2

## b = .. , then the length of AB is

.
bn

| AB | = |b a| =

p
(b1 a1 )2 + + (bn an )2 .

A vector which has unit length is called a unit vector. Any vector can be made into a unit
vector by dividing by its length.

a1
b1
Dot Product: We define the dot product of two vectors a = a2 and b = b2
a3
b3
by
a b = a1 b1 + a2 b2 + a3 b3 .
Note that this is a scalar, and so the
called a scalar product.
dot
product isoften
1
1
Ex: Find the dot product of a = 2 and b = 7
3
3
1

## The dot product also has a geometric interpretation in R2 and R3 .

Indeed for non-parallel vectors a and b in R3 , we consider the following triangle.

a
c
b
We can write c = a b and so taking lengths, we have
|c|2 = (a1 b1 )2 + (a2 b2 )2 + (a3 b3 )2 = |a|2 + |b|2 2(a1 b1 + a2 b2 + a3 b3 )
= |a|2 + |b|2 2 a b.
Also, if we write down the cosine rule for this triangle, we have |c|2 = |a|2 +|b|2 2|a||b| cos ,
where is the angle between the vectors a and b. Comparing the two expressions we see
that
a1 b1 + a2 b2 + a3 b3 = a b = |a||b| cos .
This formula is fundamental and should be committed to memory.
Notice that if the angle between a and b is 90 we have
a b = a1 b1 + a2 b2 + a3 b3 = 0.

## Ex: Find the

dot product
and hence the acute angle between the vectors a and b if
1
2
a = 1 and b = 1 .
2
1

2

## Definition: The dot product of two vectors a and b in Rn is given by

a b = a1 b1 + + an bn .

## The dot product has the following properties:

1. a a = |a|2 and so |a| =

a a.

2. a b is a scalar (which is why the dot product is sometimes called the scalar product).
3. a b = b a. (Commutative law).
4. a (b) = (a b).
5. a (b + c) = a b + a c. (Distributive law).
The proofs of these are easy.
Ex: Prove that the diagonals of a rhombus are perpendicular.

In higher dimensions we can define the angle between two vectors a and b by
cos =

ab
.
|a||b|

Orthogonality:
Two vectors a and b are said to be orthogonal if a b = 0.
3

In two and three dimensions, this is the same as saying that the two vectors are perpendicular.

2
3
Ex: Show that 5 is orthogonal to 1 .
1
11

2
4
Ex: Write down a unit vector which is perpendicular to both 6 and 3 .
3
1

## A set of vectors which are mutually orthogonal is called an orthogonal set.

1
1
1

1 , 1 ,
1
For example the set of vectors
is an orthogonal set.

1
0
2

A set of vectors which each have length 1 and are also orthogonal is called an orthonormal
set.

0
0
1
3

0 , 1 , 0 form an orthonormal
For example the 3 basis vectors in R ,

0
0
1
set.

 


1
1
1
1
,
is an orthonormal set in R2 .
The set
2 1
2 1
4

## Ex: Suppose that {a1 , a2 , a3 } is an orthonormal set in Rn , (with n 3) and

b = c1 a1 + c2 a2 + c3 a3 .
Find the scalars c1 , c2 , c3 .

Projections:
In the diagram, we are given two (non-zero) vectors a and b.
A
a

projb a

ab
|b|

## using the properties of dot product.

b
OP = |OP| |b|
and so, in two and three-dimensional space,

projb a =


5

ab
|b|2

b.

Also

## In higher dimensions we will take this for

a1
Note that 0 is the projection of
0

2
Ex: Find the projection of 3 onto
1

## our definition of the projection of a onto b.

a1
a2 onto the unit vector e1 and so on.
a3

2
3 .
6

2
3

onto

5
6


.

## The Cross Product:

There is another way in which we can define vector multiplication. This product only makes
sense in R3 and is known as the cross product.

a1
b1
Given two (non-zero) vectors a = a2 and b = b2 , we seek a third vector
a3
b3

x1

## x2 which is perpendicular to both of these. From the dot product we know

x =
x3
that such a vector must satisfy each of the equations
a1 x1 + a2 x2 + a3 x3 = 0
b1 x1 + b2 x2 + b3 x3 = 0.
6

where is real.

a2 b3 a3 b2
x = a3 b1 a1 b3
a1 b2 a2 b1

## We put = 1 and define the cross product of a and b by

a2 b3 a3 b2
a b = a3 b1 a1 b3 .
a1 b2 a2 b1
This is also sometimes known as the vector product of a and b. It is quite difficult to
remember, but can be written mnemonically using what is called the determinant notation:

i
j
k

a b = a1 a2 a3
b1 b2 b3
where, recall,

i = 0 ,
0

j = 1 ,
0

## We can expand the determinant and write

a
a2 a3

j 1
i

b1
b2 b3

k = 0 .
1

a
a3
+ k 1

b1
b3

a2
.
b2

Each subdeterminant is then evaluated to give the three co-ordinates of the cross product,
using the rule

a b

2
6
Ex: Use the determinant formula to find the cross product of 1 and 2 .
2
3

7

## Suppose a, b and c are vectors in R3 . Then

(i) a a = 0.
(ii) b a = a b.
(Note then that the cross product is NOT commutative. Changing the order changes the
sign.)
(iii) a (b) = (a b) and (a) b = (a b) for R.
(iv) From (i) and (iii) we have a (a) = 0. In other words, the cross product of parallel vectors is the zero vector.
(v) a (b + c) = a b + a c and (a + b) c = a c + b c. (Distributive law).
(vi) For the three standard basis vectors in R3 we have
e1 e2 = e3 ,

e2 e3 = e1 ,

e3 e1 = e2 .

(vii) |a b| = |a||b| sin , where is the angle between the two vectors.
All of these may be proven by writing out the co-ordinates. Some of the proofs are given in
the Algebra notes.

Example: Suppose we have three vectors a, b, c which form the sides of a triangle,
i.e. a + b + c = 0. By taking cross products derive the sine rule for this triangle.

## Note in particular result (vii). We can use this to find:

Area of a Parallelogram: Given a parallelogram S in R3 , defined by
S = {a + b : 0 1,

0 1},

Area = |a b|

## But by (vii) above, this is simply |a b|.

2
1
Ex: Find the area of the parallelogram spanned by 3 and 3 .
1
7

## Scalar Triple Product:

The scalar triple product of three vectors is defined by
a (b c).
We will see shortly that it also has a geometric interpretation.
Note that in the evaluation of the triple
product,
you must
perform
the cross product first.
2
3
5
Ex: Find the scalar triple product of 1 , 1 , 2 .
3
4
1

## Theorem: For a, b, c we have

(i) a (b c) = (a b) c
(ii) a (b c) = a (c b)
(iii) a (a b) = (a a) b = 0
(iv) The scalar triple product can be written as a

a1 a2

a (b c) = b1 b2
c1 c2

determinant, viz:

a3
b3 .
c3

There is also a vector triple product which arises in Physics. The vector triple product of
three vectors a, b, c is given by a (b c). Note that cross product is NOT associative so
a (b c) 6= (a b) c.

10

Volume of a Parallelepiped:

A
C

a
n
O

c
b

## A parallelepiped is the 3-dimensional analogue of a parallelogram.

(The word comes literally from the Greek o meaning that (the top) is
parallel to () the base (literally plane)).
Suppose we have three non-coplanar vectors a, b and c, which form the edges of the
parallelepiped. The parallelepiped is said to be spanned by these three vectors.
To find the volume, we must multiply the area of the base by the perpendicular height.
Let n be a normal to the base given by n = b c. The perpendicular height then, is given
by the length of the projection of a onto n which is simply
|projn a| =

|a n|
|a (b c)|
=
.
|n|
|b c|

Now the denominator of this expression is simply the area of the base parallelogram, and so
the volume is given by the magnitude of the scalar triple product, i.e. |a (b c)|.

2
3
3
Ex: Find the volume of the parallelepiped spanned by 4 , 4 , 2 .
1
6
5

11

Note that if the three vectors are coplanar then the volume of the parallelepiped that they
span will be zero, and conversely, so this gives us:
Theorem: Three vectors in R3 are co-planar if and only if their scalar triple product is zero.
More on Planes:
We can use the dot product to give an alternate formula for the equation of a plane.
Suppose we know a point A on the plane and a vector n which is perpendicular to the
plane.

n
X

A
a

x
b

Take any general point X on the plane. Then AX and n are perpendicular and so their dot

product is zero. Hence n. AX= 0. If we let x be the position vector of X and a be the
position vector of A, then
n (x a) = 0.
This is called the point normal form of the plane.
Ex: Find the
pointnormal form and
hence
the (Cartesian) equation of the plane pass2
1
ing through 1 with normal 2 .
3
1

12

n1
Observe that if n = n2 , then when we use the point-normal form of the equation, the
n3
co-efficients in the Cartesian equation are precisely the components of this vector. We can
exploit this idea to convert a plane from vector form to cartesian form.
Ex: Find
the
cartesian
form
of the
plane
whose equation is
2
1
3
x = 1 + 2 + 4 .
2
4
2

## Ex: Convert to point-normal form, the plane with equation 2x 3y + 4z = 12.

13

Ex: Convert

to point-normal

form,
theplane with vector equation
2
3
0

5
0
1 .
x=
+
+
3
2
2

## Distances between lines, points and planes:

1. Distance of a point to a line:

0
Ex: Find the shortest distance from the point B = 3 to the line
8

1
1
x = 2 + 1 .
3
4

1
Let A = 2 and P be the foot of the perpendicular from B to the line. Then AP is the
3
projection of AB onto the direction vector of the line. We can then find the length of BP
using the length of AB and Pythagoras.

14

## 2. Distance of a point to a Plane:

1
Find the shortest distance from the point B = 2 to the plane
3

2
1
1

x=
0
+ 1
+
0 .
0
0
2

2

## 0 and P be the foot of the perpendicular from B to the plane.

Let A be the point
0
Then BP is simply the length of the projection of AB onto the normal n to the plane.

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