<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
Vector multiplication provides concise and accurate representation of natural laws, which involve vectors.

The cross product of two vectors a and b is a third vector. The magnitude of the vector product is given by the following expression :

| c | = | a × b | = a b sin θ

where θ is the smaller of the angles between the two vectors. It is important to note that vectors have two angles θ and 2π - θ. We should use the smaller of the angles as sine of θ and 2π - θ are different.

If " n " denotes unit vector in the direction of vector product, then

c = a × b = a b sin θ n

Direction of vector product

The two vectors ( a and b ) define an unique plane. The vector product is perpendicular to this plane defined by the vectors as shown in the figure below. The most important aspect of the direction of cross product is that it is independent of the angle, θ, enclosed by the vectors. The enclosed angle , θ, only impacts the magnitude of the cross product and not its direction.

Direction of vector product

Incidentally, the requirement for determining direction suits extremely well with rectangular coordinate system. We know that rectangular coordinate system comprises of three planes, which are at right angles to each other. It is, therefore, easier if we orient our coordinate system in such a manner that vectors lie in one of the three planes defined by the rectangular coordinate system. The cross product is, then, oriented in the direction of axis, perpendicular to the plane of vectors.

Direction of vector product

As a matter of fact, the direction of vector product is not yet actually determined. We can draw the vector product perpendicular to the plane on either of the two sides. For example, the product can be drawn either along the positive direction of y – axis or along the negative direction of y-axis (See Figure below).

Direction of vector product

The direction of the vector product, including which side of the plane, is determined by right hand rule for vector products. According to this rule, we place right fist such that the curl of the fist follows as we proceed from the first vector, a , to the second vector, b . The stretched thumb, then gives the direction of vector product.

Direction of vector product

When we apply this rule to the case discussed earlier, we find that the vector product is in the positive y – direction as shown below :

Direction of vector product

Here, we notice that we move in the anti-clockwise direction as we move from vector, a , to vector, b , while looking at the plane formed by the vectors. This fact can also be used to determine the direction of the vector product. If the direction of movement is anticlockwise, then the vector product is directed towards us; otherwise the vector product is directed away on the other side of the plane.

It is important to note that the direction of cross product can be on a particular side of the plane, depending upon whether we take the product from a to b or from b to a . This implies :

a × b b × a

Thus, vector product is not commutative like vector addition. It can be inferred from the discussion of direction that change of place of vectors in the sequence of cross product actually changes direction of the product such that :

Questions & Answers

water boil at 100 and why
isaac Reply
what is upper limit of speed
Riya Reply
what temperature is 0 k
Riya
0k is the lower limit of the themordynamic scale which is equalt to -273 In celcius scale
Mustapha
How MKS system is the subset of SI system?
Clash Reply
which colour has the shortest wavelength in the white light spectrum
Mustapha Reply
how do we add
Jennifer Reply
if x=a-b, a=5.8cm b=3.22 cm find percentage error in x
Abhyanshu Reply
x=5.8-3.22 x=2.58
sajjad
what is the definition of resolution of forces
Atinuke Reply
what is energy?
James Reply
Ability of doing work is called energy energy neither be create nor destryoed but change in one form to an other form
Abdul
motion
Mustapha
highlights of atomic physics
Benjamin
can anyone tell who founded equations of motion !?
Ztechy Reply
n=a+b/T² find the linear express
Donsmart Reply
أوك
عباس
Quiklyyy
Sultan Reply
Moment of inertia of a bar in terms of perpendicular axis theorem
Sultan Reply
How should i know when to add/subtract the velocities and when to use the Pythagoras theorem?
Yara Reply
Centre of mass of two uniform rods of same length but made of different materials and kept at L-shape meeting point is origin of coordinate
Rama Reply
A balloon is released from the ground which rises vertically up with acceleration 1.4m/sec^2.a ball is released from the balloon 20 second after the balloon has left the ground. The maximum height reached by the ball from the ground is
Lucky Reply

Get the best Physics for k-12 course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Physics for k-12. OpenStax CNX. Sep 07, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10322/1.175
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Physics for k-12' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask