The rotation is described by four Euler parameters due to Leonhard Euler. The Rodrigues formula, a method of calculating the position of a rotated point, is used in some software applications, such as flight simulators and computer games.
A rotation about the origin is represented by four real numbers, a, b, c, d such that
When the rotation is applied, a point at position rotates to its new position
The parameter may be called the scalar parameter, and the vector parameter. Using vector notation, the Rodrigues equation has the form
The parameters (a, b, c, d) and (−a, −b, −c, −d) describe the same rotation. Apart from this symmetry, every set of four parameters describes a unique rotation in three-dimensional space.
Composition of rotations
The composition of two rotations is itself a rotation. Let and be the Euler parameters of two rotations. The parameters for the compound rotation (rotation 2 after rotation 1) are as follows:
It is straightforward, though tedious, to check that . (This is essentially Euler's four-square identity, also used by Rodrigues.)
Rotation angle and rotation axis
Any central rotation in three dimensions is uniquely determined by its axis of rotation (represented by a unit vector ) and the rotation angle . The Euler parameters for this rotation are calculated as follows:
Note that if is increased by a full rotation of 360 degrees, the arguments of sine and cosine only increase by 180 degrees. The resulting parameters are the opposite of the original values, (−a, −b, −c, −d); they represent the same rotation.
In particular, the identity transformation () corresponds to parameter values . Rotations of 180 degrees about any axis result in .
Connection with quaternions
The Euler parameters can be viewed as the coefficients of a quaternion; the scalar parameter is the real part, the vector parameters are the imaginary parts. Thus we have the quaternion
which is a quaternion of unit length (or versor) since
Most importantly, the above equations for composition of rotation are precisely the equations for multiplication of quaternions. In other words, the group of unit quaternions with multiplication, modulo the negative sign, is isomorphic to the group of rotations with composition.
Connection with SU(2) spin matrices
Alternatively, this can be written as the sum
where the are the Pauli spin matrices. Thus, the Euler parameters are the coefficients for the representation of a three-dimensional rotation in SU(2).
- Rotation formalisms in three dimensions
- Quaternions and spatial rotation
- Spinors in three dimensions
- Cartan, Élie (1981). The Theory of Spinors. Dover. ISBN 0-486-64070-1.
- Hamilton, W. R. (1899). Elements of Quaternions. Cambridge University Press.
- Haug, E.J. (1984). Computer-Aided Analysis and Optimization of Mechanical Systems Dynamics. Springer-Verlag.
- Garza, Eduardo; M.E. Pacheco Quintanilla (June 2011). "Benjamin Olinde Rodrigues, matemático y ﬁlántropo, y su inﬂuencia en la Física Mexicana" (pdf). Revista Mexicana de Física (in Spanish): 109–113. Archived from the original on 2012-04-23.