UCT MAM1000 lecture notes part 43 – 3D geometry and vectors part vi


The idea of determinants have been about since around the 3rd century when it first appeared in an ancient Chinese book of Mathematics called The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art. It was used originally to define certain properties of systems of linear equations, as we will see later in the section on linear algebra, however for now we will simply use it as a particular way to easily calculate the cross product. Let’s take a two by two array of numbers and define the determinant for this.


\left|\begin{array}{cc}a & b \\ c & d \\\end{array}\right|=ad-bc


The vertical lines on the left and right are the sign that the we are taking a determinant. For now this is just a definition and we will work with it in what follows. Don’t worry too much about where it comes from, but we will see later where it comes from and we will see now why it is useful.…

UCT MAM1000 lecture notes part 42 – 3D geometry and vectors part v

The vector, or cross product

When we took two vectors previously and found a way to multiply them together using the dot product, we ended up with a scalar. However, there is also a way that we can take two vectors and multiply them together to give a vector, but a vector with very specific properties with respect to the first two. What we will define here will be in three dimensions, and, unlike the dot product, does not generalise easily to other dimensions, (other than 7) though it can in fact be extended.

We are going to define the cross product such that it gives a vector which is perpendicular to the two vectors being crossed. This might sound a bit arbitrary but it shows up in a huge number of different situations in physics in particular and can help us to understand the geometric relation between vectors very simply.…