# Describing rotation in 3d with a vector

- [Voiceover] How do you describe rotation
in three dimensions?
So for example, I have here a globe
and it's rotating in some way
and there's a certain direction that it's rotating
and a speed with which it's rotating.
And the question is how could you give me some numerical
information that perfectly describes that rotation?
So you give me some numbers, and I can tell you the speed
and the direction and everything associated
with this rotation.
let's remind ourselves of how we talked about
two dimensional rotation.
So I have here a little pi creature,
and I set him to start rotating about
and the way that we can describe this,
we pretty much need to just give a rate to it.
And you might give that rate as a number of rotations
per second, some unit of time. So rotations per second.
And in this case, I think I programmed him so that
he's going to do one rotation for every five seconds.
So his rotational rate would be 0.2.
But that's a little bit ambiguous
because if you just say, "Hey, this little pi creature
is rotating at 0.2 rotations per second,"
someone could say, "Well, is it clockwise
or counterclockwise?"
So there's some ambiguity.
And the convention that people have adopted
is to say, "Well, if I give you a positive number,
if the number is positive, then that's going to tell you
that the nature of the rotation is counterclockwise,
but if I give you a negative number,
if instead you see something that's a negative number
of rotations per second, that would be rotation
the other way, going clockwise."
And that's the convention.
That's just what people have decided on.
And with this it's very nice because given a single number,
just one number, and it could be positive or negative,
you can perfectly describe two dimensional rotation.
And there's a minor nuance here,
usually in physics and math, we don't actually use
rotations per unit second but instead you describe things
in terms of the number of radians per unit second.
And just as a quick reminder of what that means,
if you imagine some kind of circle,
and it could be any circle, the size doesn't really matter,
and if you draw the radius to that and then ask the question
how far along the circumference would I have to go
such that the arc length, that sort of sub-portion
of the circumference, is exactly as long as the radius?
So if this was R, you'd want to know how far you have to go
before that arc length is also R.
And then that, that angle, that amount of turning
that you can do, determines one radian.
And because there's exactly two pi radians
for every rotation, to convert between rotations
per unit second and radians per unit second,
you just multiply this guy by 2π
so it would be whatever the number you have there times 2π.
And the specific numbers aren't too important.
The main upshot here is that with a single number,
positive or negative, you can perfectly describe
two dimensional rotation.
But if we look over here at the 3D case,
than just one number that we're going to need to know.
First of all, you want to know the axis
around which it's rotating, so the line that you can draw
such that all rotation happens around that line.
And then you want to describe the actual rate
at which it's going. You know, is it slow rotation
or is it fast?
So you need to know a direction along with a magnitude.
And you might say to yourself, "Hey, direction? Magnitude?
Sounds like we could use a vector."
And in fact, that's what we do.
We use some kind of vector whose length
is going to correspond to the rate at which it's rotating,
it's called the angular velocity.
And then the direction describes the axis of rotation itself
But similar to how in two dimensions there was
an ambiguity between clockwise and counterclockwise,
if this was the only convention we had,
it would be ambiguous whether you should use this vector
or if you should use one pointing in the opposite direction.
And the way I've chosen to draw these guys, by the way,
it doesn't matter where they are,
remember a vector it just has a magnitude and a direction
and you can put it anywhere in space.
I figured it was natural enough
to just kind of put them around the poles
just so that you could see them
on the axis of rotation itself.
So the question is, what vector do you use?
Do you use the one pointing in this direction?
Or do you use this green one pointing
in the opposite direction?
And for this, we have a convention
known as the right-hand rule.
So I'll go ahead and bring in a picture here
to illustrate the right-hand rule.
What you imagine doing is taking the fingers
of your right hand and curling them around
in the direction of rotation.
And what I mean by that is the tips of your fingers
will be pointing the direction
that the surface of the sphere would move.
Then when you stick out your thumb,
that's the direction that is the choice of vector
which should describe that rotation.
So in the specific example we have here,
when you stick out your right thumb,
that corresponds to the white vector, not the green one.
But if you did things the other way around,
whoops, move this a little bit. Get him to stay in place.
If you move things the other way around,
such that the rotation were going kind of
in the opposite direction,
then when you imagine curling the fingers of your right hand
around that direction, your thumb is going to point
according to the green vector.
But with the original rotation that I started illustrating,
it's the white vector,
the white vector is the one to go with.
And this is actually pretty cool, right?
Because you're packing a lot of information
into that vector.
It tells you what the axis is.
It tells you the speed of rotation via its magnitude.
And then the choice of which direction along the axis
tells you whether the globe is going one way
or if it's going the other.
So with just three numbers,
the three dimensional coordinates of this vector,
you can perfectly describe any one given
three dimensional rotation.
in a series of videos about curl,
is three dimensional curl which relates to fluid flow
in three dimensions and how that induces a rotation
at every single point in space.
And what's going to happen is you're going to associate
a vector with every single point in space
to answer the question what rotation at that point
is induced by the certain fluid flow?
And I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself here.
For right now you just need to focus
on a single point of rotation
and a single vector corresponding to that.