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Great circle

A great circle is a section of a sphere that contains a diameter of the sphere (Kern and Bland 1948, p. 87). Sections of the sphere that do not contain a diameter are called small circles. A great circle becomes a straight line in a gnomonic projection (Steinhaus 1999, pp. 220-221).The shortest path between two points on a sphere, also known as an orthodrome, is a segment of a great circle. To find the great circle (geodesic) distance between two points located at latitude and longitude of and on a sphere of radius , convert spherical coordinates to Cartesian coordinates using(1)(Note that the latitude is related to the colatitude of spherical coordinates by , so the conversion to Cartesian coordinates replaces and by and , respectively.) Now find the angle between and using the dot product,(2)(3)(4)The great circle distance is then(5)For the Earth, the equatorial radius is km, or 3963 (statute) miles. Unfortunately, the flattening..

Baseball cover

A pair of identical plane regions (mirror symmetric about two perpendicular lines through the center) which can be stitched together to form a baseball (or tennis ball). A baseball has a circumference of 9 1/8 inches. The practical consideration of separating the regions far enough to allow the pitcher a good grip requires that the "neck" distance be about 1 3/16 inches. The baseball cover was invented by Elias Drake as a boy in the 1840s. (Thompson's attribution of the current design to trial and error development by C. H. Jackson in the 1860s is apparently unsubstantiated, as discovered by George Bart.)One way to produce a baseball cover is to draw the regions on a sphere, then cut them out. However, it is difficult to produce two identical regions in this manner. Thompson (1996) gives mathematical expressions giving baseball cover curves both in the plane and in three dimensions. J. H. Conway has humorously..

Seiffert's spherical spiral

The spherical curve obtained when moving along the surface of a sphere with constant speed, while maintaining a constant angular velocity with respect to a fixed diameter (Erdős 2000). This curve is given in cylindrical coordinates by the parametric equations(1)(2)(3)where is a positive constant and and are Jacobi elliptic functions (Whittaker and Watson 1990, pp. 527-528).Erdős (2000) provides a derivation of the equations of this curve, as well as an analysis of its properties, including conditions for obtaining periodic orbits.

Spherical spiral

The spherical curve taken by a ship which travels from the south pole to the north pole of a sphere while keeping a fixed (but not right) angle with respect to the meridians. The curve has an infinite number of loops since the separation of consecutive revolutions gets smaller and smaller near the poles.It is given by the parametric equations(1)(2)(3)where(4)and is a constant. Plugging in therefore gives(5)(6)(7)It is a special case of a loxodrome.The arc length, curvature,and torsion are all slightly complicated expressions.A series of spherical spirals are illustrated in Escher's woodcuts "Sphere Surface with Fish" (Bool et al. 1982, pp. 96 and 318) and "Sphere Spirals" (Bool et al. 1982, p. 319; Forty 2003, Plate 67).

Spherical helix

The tangent indicatrix of a curve of constant precession is a spherical helix. The equation of a spherical helix on a sphere with radius making an angle with the z-axis is(1)(2)(3)The projection on the -plane is an epicycloid with radii(4)(5)


A path, also known as a rhumb line, which cuts a meridian on a given surface at any constant angle but a right angle. If the surface is a sphere, the loxodrome is a spherical spiral. The loxodrome is the path taken when a compass is kept pointing in a constant direction. It is a straight line on a Mercator projection or a logarithmic spiral on a polar projection (Steinhaus 1999, pp. 218-219). The loxodrome is not the shortest distance between two points on a sphere.

Spherical plot

A plot of a function expressed in spherical coordinates, with radius as a function of angles and . Polar plots can be drawn using SphericalPlot3D[r, phi, phimin, phimax, theta, thetamin, thetamax]. The plots above are spherical plots of the equations and , where denotes the real part and the imaginary part. The spherical plot of a constant is a sphere of radius .

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