Concept

Rotation (mathematics)

Summary
Rotation in mathematics is a concept originating in geometry. Any rotation is a motion of a certain space that preserves at least one point. It can describe, for example, the motion of a rigid body around a fixed point. Rotation can have a sign (as in the sign of an angle): a clockwise rotation is a negative magnitude so a counterclockwise turn has a positive magnitude. A rotation is different from other types of motions: translations, which have no fixed points, and (hyperplane) reflections, each of them having an entire (n − 1)-dimensional flat of fixed points in a n-dimensional space. Mathematically, a rotation is a map. All rotations about a fixed point form a group under composition called the rotation group (of a particular space). But in mechanics and, more generally, in physics, this concept is frequently understood as a coordinate transformation (importantly, a transformation of an orthonormal basis), because for any motion of a body there is an inverse transformation which if applied to the frame of reference results in the body being at the same coordinates. For example, in two dimensions rotating a body clockwise about a point keeping the axes fixed is equivalent to rotating the axes counterclockwise about the same point while the body is kept fixed. These two types of rotation are called active and passive transformations. The rotation group is a Lie group of rotations about a fixed point. This (common) fixed point or center is called the center of rotation and is usually identified with the origin. The rotation group is a point stabilizer in a broader group of (orientation-preserving) motions. For a particular rotation: The axis of rotation is a line of its fixed points. They exist only in n > 2. The plane of rotation is a plane that is invariant under the rotation. Unlike the axis, its points are not fixed themselves. The axis (where present) and the plane of a rotation are orthogonal. A representation of rotations is a particular formalism, either algebraic or geometric, used to parametrize a rotation map.