- For other uses, see sphere (disambiguation).
A sphere is, roughly speaking, a ball-shaped object. In non-mathematical usage, the term sphere is often used for something "solid" (which mathematicians call ball). But in mathematics, sphere refers to the boundary of a ball, which is "hollow". This article deals with the mathematical concept of sphere.
In three-dimensional Euclidean geometry, a sphere is the set of points in R3 which are at distance r from a fixed point of that space, where r is a positive real number called the radius of the sphere. The fixed point is called the center or centre, and is not part of the sphere itself. The special case of r = 1 is called a unit sphere.
In analytic geometry, a sphere with center (x0, y0, z0) and radius r is the set of all points (x, y, z) such that
The points on the sphere with radius r can be parametrized via
(see also trigonometric functions and spherical coordinates).
A sphere of any radius centered at the origin is described by the following differential equation:
This equation reflects the fact that the position and velocity vectors of a point travelling on the sphere are always orthogonal to each other.
The surface area of a sphere of radius r is:
and its enclosed volume is:
The sphere has the smallest surface area among all surfaces enclosing a given volume and it encloses the largest volume among all closed surfaces with a given surface area. For this reason, the sphere appears in nature: for instance bubbles and small water drops are roughly spherical, because the surface tension minimizes surface area.
The circumscribed cylinder for a given sphere has a volume which is 3/2 times the volume of the sphere, and also a surface area which is 3/2 times the surface area of the sphere. This fact, along with the volume and surface formulas given above, was already known to Archimedes.
A sphere can also be defined as the surface formed by rotating a circle about its diameter. If the circle is replaced by an ellipse, the shape becomes a spheroid.
Generalization to higher dimensions
Spheres can be generalized to higher dimensions. For any natural number n, an n-sphere is the set of points in (n+1)-dimensional Euclidean space which are at distance r from a fixed point of that space, where r is, as before, a positive real number.
- a 0-sphere is a pair of points ( - r,r)
- a 1-sphere is a circle of radius r
- a 2-sphere is an ordinary sphere
- a 3-sphere is a sphere in 4-dimensional Euclidean space
Spheres for n > 2 are sometimes called hyperspheres. The n-sphere of unit radius centred at the origin is denoted Sn and is often referred to as "the" n-sphere.
In topology, an n-sphere is defined as a space homeomorphic to the boundary of an (n+1)-ball; thus, it is homeomorphic to the Euclidean n-sphere described above under Geometry, but perhaps lacking its metric.
The n-sphere is denoted Sn. It is an example of a compact n-manifold without boundary. A sphere need not be smooth; if it is smooth, it need not be diffeomorphic to the Euclidean sphere.
The Heine-Borel theorem is used in a short proof that an n-sphere is compact. The sphere is the inverse image of a one-point set under the continuous function ||x||. Therefore the sphere is closed. Sn is also bounded. Therefore it is compact.
Last updated: 10-24-2005 09:26:53