Coordinate singularity

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A coordinate singularity (or coördinate singularity) occurs when an apparent singularity or discontinuity occurs in one coordinate frame, which can be removed by choosing a different frame.

An example is the apparent (longitudinal) singularity at the 90 degree latitude in spherical coordinates. An object moving due north (for example, along the line 0 degrees longitude) on the surface of a sphere will suddenly experience an instantaneous change in longitude at the pole (i.e., jumping from longitude 0 to longitude 180 degrees). In fact, longitude is not uniquely defined at the poles. This discontinuity, however, is only apparent; it is an artifact of the coordinate system chosen, which is singular at the poles. A different coordinate system would eliminate the apparent discontinuity, e.g. by replacing latitude/longitude with n-vectors.

Stephen Hawking aptly summed this up, when once asking the question "what's north of the north pole?".[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ What is Cosmology?, wiseGEEK.com. Accessed 15 Feb 2013. In a related discussion, he mentions this again : The Beginning of Time - Stephen Hawking; accessed 15 Feb 2013.