7. Vectors in 3-D Space
On this page...
Magnitude of a 3-D Vector
Adding 3-D Vectors
Dot Product of 3-D Vectors
Direction Cosines
Angle Between Vectors
Application
We saw earlier how to represent 2-dimensional vectors on the x-y plane.
Now we extend the idea to represent 3-dimensional vectors using the x-y-z axes. (See The 3-dimensional Co-ordinate System for background on this).
Example
The vector OP has initial point at the origin O (0, 0, 0) and terminal point at P (2, 3, 5). We can draw the vector OP as follows:
Magnitude of a 3-Dimensional Vector
We saw above that the distance between 2 points in 3-dimensional space is
`"distance"\ AB = sqrt ((x_2-x_1)^2+ (y_2-y_1)^2+ (z_2-z_1)^2)`
For the vector OP above, the magnitude of the vector is given by:
`| OP | = sqrt(2^2+ 3^2+ 5^2) = 6.16\ "units" `
Adding 3-dimensional Vectors
Earlier we saw how to add 2-dimensional vectors. We now extend the idea for 3-dimensional vectors.
We simply add the i components together, then the j components and finally, the k components.
Example 1
Two anchors are holding a ship in place and their forces acting on the ship are represented by vectors A and B as follows:
A = 2i + 5j − 4k and B = −2i − 3j − 5k
If we were to replace the 2 anchors with 1 single anchor, what vector represents that single vector?
Dot Product of 3-dimensional Vectors
To find the dot product (or scalar product) of 3-dimensional vectors, we just extend the ideas from the dot product in 2 dimensions that we met earlier.
Example 2 - Dot Product Using Magnitude and Angle
Find the dot product of the vectors P and Q given that the angle between the two vectors is 35° and
| P | = 25 units and | Q | = 4 units
Example 3 - Dot Product if Vectors are Multiples of Unit Vectors
Find the dot product of the vectors A and B (these come from our anchor example above):
A = 2i + 5j − 4k and B = −2i − 3j − 5k
Direction Cosines
Suppose we have a vector OA with initial point at the origin and terminal point at A.
Suppose also that we have a unit vector in the same direction as OA. (Go here for a reminder on unit vectors).
Let our unit vector be:
u = u_{1} i + u_{2} j + u_{3} k
On the graph, u is the unit vector (in black) pointing in the same direction as vector OA, and i, j, and k (the unit vectors in the x-, y- and z-directions respectively) are marked in green.
We now zoom in on the vector u, and change orientation slightly, as follows:
Now, if in the diagram above,
α is the angle between u and the x-axis (in dark red),
β is the angle between u and the y-axis (in green) and
γ is the angle between u and the z-axis (in pink),
then we can use the scalar product and write:
u_{1}
= u `*` i
= 1 × 1 × cos α
= cos α
u_{2}
= u`*` j
= 1 × 1 × cos β
= cos β
u_{3}
= u `*` k
= 1 × 1 × cos γ
= cos γ
So we can write our unit vector u as:
u = cos α i + cos β j + cos γ k
These 3 cosines are called the direction cosines.
Angle Between 3-Dimensional Vectors
Earlier, we saw how to find the angle between 2-dimensional vectors. We use the same formula for 3-dimensional vectors:
`theta=arccos((P * Q)/(|P||Q|))`
Example 4
Find the angle between the vectors P = 4i + 0j + 7k and Q = -2i + j + 3k.
Exercise
Find the angle between the vectors P = 3i + 4j − 7k and Q = -2i + j + 3k.
Application
We have a cube ABCO PQRS which has a string along the cube's diagonal B to S and another along the other diagonal C to P
What is the angle between the 2 strings?
Didn't find what you are looking for on this page? Try search:
Online Algebra Solver
This algebra solver can solve a wide range of math problems. (Please be patient while it loads.)
Go to: Online algebra solver
Ready for a break?
Play a math game.
(Well, not really a math game, but each game was made using math...)
The IntMath Newsletter
Sign up for the free IntMath Newsletter. Get math study tips, information, news and updates each fortnight. Join thousands of satisfied students, teachers and parents!
Share IntMath!
Short URL for this Page
Save typing! You can use this URL to reach this page:
intmath.com/vectors3d
Math Lessons on DVD
Easy to understand math lessons on DVD. See samples before you commit.
More info: Math videos