

Skew Lines
Name: Chris
Status: student
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A
Question:
Dear Scientist, Teacher, or Person kind enough to respond,
I am having trouble with the concept of skew lines in my
current geometry class, and was wondering if anyone knew of some
examples of skew lines in everyday life. I would prefer if these
examples were skew lines in order to perform a function, and not
just the for design. Thank You.
Replies:
How about in baseball? Imagine a batter attempting to bunt a pitch:
holding the bat stationary, roughly at a right angle to the motion of
the pitched ball. Let the bat represent one line, and let the path of
the ball represent another line. (Let us pretend that the ball really
does move in a straight line, and that the bat is very long.)
If the bunt attempt is successful, the two lines must intersect. But
if the batter misses the ball, the ball must have gone above or below
the bat, and in this case the two lines are skew.
Tim Mooney
For the record: "Skew Lines" are two or more nonparallel lines,
or curves, that do not intersect. In 2dimensional Euclidian
geometry there are no skew lines. In 3 or higher dimensions, there
are an infinite number of skew lines. For a visual example,
consider a cube: The front horizontal edges and the rear vertical
edges are "skew lines". There are general analytical tests for
determining whether two (or more) lines (curves) are "skewed".
"Practical" examples arise in the analysis and design of
networks. For example, if you drop a pile of sticks on the floor
they will be in a tangled pile, but the pile of "n" sticks form a
set of "n" skewed lines, since every stick is separated from every
other stick by a distance of at least 2*R, where R is the radius of
the strands.
A second example might be a 3dimensional lattice of NxNxN
dots. The problem is to determine how many of the point pairs (Ni,
Nj) can be connected without intersecting a third point, that is,
there is no other point Nk such that Nk falls on the line
connecting Ni and Nj. This might be useful in designing how many
"secure" links can be made between "i" and "j" to guarantee that a
third party "k" cannot eavesdrop on the link between "i" and "j".
One added consideration is a pedagogical one. It isn't necessary
to have a "practical example" for a mathematical concept or study.
Mathematics, including geometry, considers the logical connections
between the axioms and various conclusions that result from
theorems involving the axioms. The "responsibility" of the
mathematics is to ensure consistency, not necessarily to be
concerned whether there is some "problem" or "example" out there to
solve. Sometimes the math is driven by a problem, but also, often
the math precedes the problem. A classical example of this type of
"mathbeforetheproblem" is complex numbers, those numbers
involving that curious number "i", the square root of
(1). That math was robustly developed before its application to
physical problems was recognized. Now complex variable algebra is
key to understanding most of modern physics and engineering.
Vince Calder
Click here to return to the Mathematics Archives
 
Update: June 2012

