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Our first task, when dealing with 3dimensional motion, is to set up a suitable
coordinate system. The most straightforward type of coordinate system is called a Cartesian
system, after René
Descartes. A Cartesian coordinate system consists of three mutually perpendicular axes,
the , , and axes (say). By convention, the orientation of these
axes is such that when the index finger, the middle finger, and the thumb of the
righthand are configured so as to be mutually perpendicular, the index finger, the
middle finger, and the thumb can be aligned along the , , and axes, respectively.
Such a coordinate system is termed righthanded. See Fig. 10. The
point of intersection of the three coordinate axes is termed the origin
of the coordinate system.
Figure 10:
A righthanded Cartesian coordinate system

Richard Fitzpatrick
20060202