Euclidean space

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In mathematics, Euclidean space is the Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry, as well as the generalizations of these notions to higher dimensions. The term “Euclidean” is used to distinguish these spaces from the curved spaces of non-Euclidean geometry and Einstein's general theory of relativity, and is named for the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria.

In classical Greek geometry, the Euclidean plane and Euclidean three-dimensional space were defined using certain postulates, and the other properties of these spaces were deduced as theorems. In modern mathematics, it is more common to define Euclidean space using Cartesian coordinates and the ideas of analytic geometry. This approach brings the tools of algebra and calculus to bear on questions of geometry, and has the advantage that it generalizes easily to Euclidean spaces of more than three dimensions.

From the modern viewpoint, there is essentially only one Euclidean space of each dimension. In dimension one this is the real line; in dimension two it is the Cartesian plane; and in higher dimensions it is the real coordinate space with three or more real number coordinates. Thus a point in Euclidean space is a tuple of real numbers, and distances are defined using the Euclidean distance formula. Mathematicians often denote the n-dimensional Euclidean space by \mathbb{R}^n, or sometimes \mathbb{E}^n if they wish to emphasize its Euclidean nature. Euclidian spaces have finite dimension.

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Intuitive overview

One way to think of the Euclidean plane is as a set of points satisfying certain relationships, expressible in terms of distance and angle. For example, there are two fundamental operations on the plane. One is translation, which means a shifting of the plane so that every point is shifted in the same direction and by the same distance. The other is rotation about a fixed point in the plane, in which every point in the plane turns about that fixed point through the same angle. One of the basic tenets of Euclidean geometry is that two figures (that is, subsets) of the plane should be considered equivalent (congruent) if one can be transformed into the other by some sequence of translations, rotations and reflections. (See Euclidean group.)

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