Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Equation of planes

  1. Mar 20, 2009 #1
    Hi guys,

    I am sort of new here. So I am not pretty sure if I am to post this question in here.

    I am a software programmer and I need to write a class for defining a plane. I came across the plane in its normal form nx+ny+nz+d=0

    I need to feed in the values of the plane from another part of my program.

    I can understand that nx,ny and nz are the normals of the plane. So where does the d come from. How exactly do you arrive at the value of d;

    May sound very basic but then it would be nice if some one could help me out
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The equation should read nxx+nyy+nzz+d=0. d essentially defines how far the plane is from the origin of the coordinate system.
  4. Mar 20, 2009 #3
    If I may rephrase my question:

    If the orign of my co ordinate system is (0,0,0) then d is the distance between (0,0,0) and which point on the plane ??? Or am I totally misunderstanding this?? Can you please explain
  5. Mar 20, 2009 #4
    Ok, let us first try to come up with the vector equation of the plane, and then we will switch to cartesian coordinates, and you will probbably see how the d comes into play.

    A plane is generally uniqely determined by a point call it [tex] P_o(x_o,y_o,z_o)[/tex] and a vector normal on the plane [tex]n=<a,b,c>[/tex]

    Now, let P(x,y,z) be any other point in the plane, then its position vector would be:


    while let

    [tex]r_o=<x_o,y_o,z_o>[/tex] be the position vector to the point P_o.

    Now, if you draw a picture you will se that the following relation holds:


    "*" holds for the dot product. Notice that (r-ro) and n are normal vectors.

    Now, switching to the coordinate representation of the above vectors we get:


    After rearranging the stuff in there we get:



  6. Mar 20, 2009 #5
    many thanks for explaining stuff to me.. I got confused after looking at many websites none of which gave me what d is .

    Thanks anyways
  7. Mar 21, 2009 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Take a line normal to the plane starting at the origin. This line will hit the plane at a distance d from the origin. The hit point will have coordinates (-dnx,-dny,-dnz)
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Equation of planes
  1. Equation of a plane (Replies: 9)

  2. Plane Equations (Replies: 3)