Monday, April 21, 2008

Cartesian Coordinates

Coordinate systems allow us to refer to points in space using numbers. There are different kinds of coordinate systems and they can have different numbers of dimensions. A very familiar coordinate system is the 2-D Cartesian coordinate system.
In this coordinate system two numbers, x and y, specify a point in a plane. The name Cartesian comes from Descartes who is said to have "invented" the system while laying in bed sick and watching a fly crawl across the tiled ceiling.

The above 2-D Cartesian system can be expanded into a 3-D cartesian if we simply add a third dimension, z. As x determines the left/right position and y determines the up/down position the additional coordinate z determines the back/forth position.

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