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SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 17

5. The 3-Dimensional Co-ordinate

We can expand our 2-dimensional (x-y) coordinate system into a
3-dimensional coordinate system, using x-, y-, and z-axes.

The x-y plane is horizontal in our diagram above and shaded

green. It can also be described using the equation z = 0, since all
points on that plane will have 0 for their z-value.
The x-z plane is vertical and shaded pink above. This plane can
be described using the equation y = 0.
The y-z plane is also vertical and shaded blue. The y-z plane can
be described using the equation x = 0.
We normally use the right-hand orientation for the 3 axes, with
the positive x-axis pointing in the direction of the first finger of
our right hand, the positive y-axis pointing in the direction of our
second finger and the positive z-axis pointing up in the direction
of our thumb.
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 18

Example: Points in 3-D Space

In 3-dimensional space, the point (2, 3, 5) is graphed as follows:

To reach the point (2, 3, 5), we move 2 units along the x-axis, then
3 units in the y-direction, and then up 5 units in the z-direction.
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 19

Distance in 3-Dimensional Space

To find the distance from one point to another in 3-dimensional
space, we just extend Pythagoras Theorem.

Distance from the Origin

The general point P (a, b, c) is shown on the 3D graph below. The
point N is directly below P on the x-y plane.

The distance from (0, 0, 0) to the point P (a, b, c) is given by:

distance OP = a2 + b2 + c2
The point N (a, b, 0) is shown on the graph. From Pythagoras
Theorem, q
distance ON = a2 + b2
and squaring both sides gives:
(ON) 2 = a2 + b2
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 20

Distance NP is simply c (this is the distance up the z-axis for the

point P).
Applying Pythagoras Theorem for the triangle ONP, we have:
distance OP = (ON) 2 + c2
= a2 + b2 + c2

Example: Find the distance from the origin O to the point B

(2, 3, 5). This is the example from above.


Distance between 2 Points in 3 Dimensions

If we have point A (x 1 , y1 , z1 ) and another point B (x 2 , y2 , z2 ) then
the distance AB between them is given by the formula:
distance AB = (x 2 x 1 ) 2 + (y2 y1 ) 2 + (z2 z1 ) 2

This is just an extension of the distance formula (from the origin

to a point) that we met above.

Example: Find the distance between the points P (2, 3, 5) and

Q (4, 2, 3).

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 21

6. Vectors in 3-D Space

We saw earlier how to represent 2-D vectors on the x-y plane.
Now we extend the idea to represent 3-dimensional vectors using
the x-y-z axes.

The vector OP has initial point at the origin O (0, 0, 0) and ter-
minal point at P (2, 3, 5). We can draw the vector OP as fol-

Magnitude of a 3-Dimensional Vector

We saw above that the distance between 2 points in 3-dimensional
space is:
distance AB = (x 2 x 1 ) 2 + (y2 y1 ) 2 + (z2 z1 ) 2
For the vector OP above, the magnitude of the vector is given
k OPk = 22 + 32 + 52 = 6.16 units
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 22

Thus the zero vector, being a vector of zero length, is then:

0 = (0, 0, 0)

Vectors with Given Initial and Terminal Points

A vector having its initial point at P(x 1 , y1 , z1 ) and terminal point
# # # #
at Q(x 2 , y2 , z2 ) is denoted PQ. Since OP + PQ = OQ,
# # #
= PQ = OQ OP
= (x 2 , y2 , z2 ) (x 1 , y1 , z1 ) = (x 2 x 1 , y2 y1 , z2 z1 )

# Q P


O y

Example: Find the vector from the point P(2, 3, 5) to the point
Q(4, 2, 3).

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 23

Unit Vectors in 3 Dimensions

Now we need three unit vectors: i, j, and k.

(0, 0, 1)
(1, 0, 0) (0, 1, 0)
j y

Adding 3-Dimensional vectors

Earlier we saw how to add 2-dimensional vectors using their com-
ponents. 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.

Scalar Multiplication using Components

Just like the multiplication of a matrix by a scalar:

k (Vx ,Vy ,Vz ) = (kVx , kVy , kVz )


1. Vector kV is in the same direction as

V if k is positive. It is in the opposite 1
direction as that of V if k is negative. V 2V 2V

2. The size of kV is |k | times that of V.

That is, = kkVk = |k | kVk
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 24


1. U+V=V+U (commutativity of addition)

2. U+0=0+U=U (additive identity)
3. (U + V) + W = U + (V + W) (associativity of addition)
4. k (U + V) = kU + kV (distributivity)
5. (k + l) U = kU + lU
6. 0U = 0
7. 1U = U
8. 1 U = U

Example: Find the vector U 2V, when U = 2i 3j + k and

V = 3i 2j k.


Example: Two anchors are holding a ship in place

and their forces acting on the ship are represented by
vectors 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?
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 25

Exercise: NAME:

Given the points P(1, 2, 2) and Q(3, 1, 1). Find the following
1. The vector PQ.

2. The distance from P to Q.

3. The length of the vector PQ.

4. A vector of length 3 in the opposite direction to that of PQ.
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 26

Dot product of 3-Dimensional Vectors

To find the dot product (or scalar product) of 3-dimensional vec-
tors, we first need to understand that the angle between 2 vec-
tors U and V is the angle defined by the vectors U and V such that
0 < .
The dot product U V is defined as:

U V = kUk kVk cos if U , 0, V , 0

UV=0 if U = 0 or V = 0

Example: Find the dot product of the vectors P and Q given that
the angle between the two vectors is 30, and kPk = 25 units and
kQk = 4 units.


Dot Product using Components

It can be proved, by using the cosine rule, that

g x 2

(x 1 , y1 , z1 ) (x 2 , y2 , z2 ) = x 1 x 2 + y1 y2 + z1 z2 = x 1 y1 z1 y2

Example: Calculate the dot product of the vectors U = (0, 0, 1)

and V = (0, 2, 2).

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 27

Dot Product if Vectors are Multiples of Unit Vectors

If we express the vectors using unit vectors i, j, and k, we can see
that it is also possible to apply the dot product term by term and
use the properties:


Example: Find the dot product of the vectors 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.
Then, a unit vector u in the same direction as OA is given by
1 #
u = # OA
k OAk

Let our unit vector be:

u = u1 i + u2 j + u3 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.
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 28

We now zoom in on the vector u, and change orientation slightly,

as follows:

is the angle between u and the x-axis (in dark red),

is the angle between u and the y-axis (in green), and
is the angle between u and the z-axis (in pink). Then:

u1 = u i = (1)(1) cos = cos

u2 = u j = (1)(1) cos = cos
u3 = u k = (1)(1) cos = cos
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 29

So we can write our unit vector u as:

u = cos i + cos j + cos k

These 3 cosines are called the direction cosines.

Example: Find the direction cosines of U = 2i 3j + k.


Angle between 3-Dimensional Vectors

We use the formula for the dot product between 2 3-dimensional
vectors to find:
= arccos
kPk kQk
Example: Find the angle between the vectors P = 3i + k and
Q = 2i + 5j + k.

SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 30

Exercise: NAME:

Find the angle between P = i + j and Q = i + j + 2 k.
SCMA128 Mathematics I Algebra 31

Example: Application

A cube ABCO PQRS has a string along the cubes diagonal B to

S and another along the other diagonal C to P.

What is the angle between the 2 strings?