Definition:Angle Between Vectors

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Definition

Let $\mathbf v, \mathbf w$ be two non-zero vectors in $\R^n$.


Case 1

Suppose that $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$ are not scalar multiples of each other:

$\neg \exists \lambda \in \R: \mathbf v = \lambda \mathbf w$

Then the angle between $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$ is defined as follows:


Describe a triangle with lengths corresponding to:

$\left\Vert{\mathbf v}\right\Vert, \left\Vert{ \mathbf w}\right\Vert, \left\Vert{ \mathbf v - \mathbf w}\right\Vert$

where $\left\Vert{\cdot}\right\Vert$ denotes vector length:

AngleBetweenTwoVectors.png


The angle formed between the two sides with lengths $\left\Vert{\mathbf v}\right\Vert$ and $\left\Vert{\mathbf w}\right\Vert$ is called the angle between vectors $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$.


By convention, the angle is taken between $0$ and $\pi$.


Case 2

Suppose that $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$ are scalar multiples of each other:

$\exists \lambda \in \R: \mathbf v = \lambda \mathbf w$

As $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$ as non-zero, $\lambda \ne 0$.


If $\lambda > 0$, then the angle between $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$ is defined as a zero angle, that is:

$\theta = 0$


If $\lambda < 0$, then the angle between $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$ is defined as a straight angle, that is:

$\theta = \pi$


Comment


If either $\mathbf v$ or $\mathbf w$ is zero, the angle between $\mathbf v$ and $\mathbf w$ is not defined.

Also note that in all cases:

$0 \le \theta \le \pi$


Also see


Sources