frame of reference

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frame of reference

Geometry any set of planes or curves, such as the three coordinate axes, used to locate or measure movement of a point in space

Frame of reference

A base to which to refer physical events. A physical event occurs at a point in space and at an instant of time. Each reference frame must have an observer to record events, as well as a coordinate system for the purpose of assigning locations to each event. The latter is usually a three-dimensional space coordinate system and a set of standardized clocks to give the local time of each event. For a discussion of the geometrical properties of space-time coordinate systems See Space-time, Relativity

In the ordinary range of experience, where light signals, for all practical purposes, propagate instantaneously, the time of an event is quite distinct from its space coordinates, since a single clock suffices for all observers, regardless of their state of relative motion. The set of reference frames which have a common clock or time is called newtonian, since Isaac Newton regarded time as having invariable significance for all observers.

For discussion of other types of reference frames.

frame of reference

A rigid framework, such as the Earth, the celestial sphere, or a set of coordinate axes, relative to which position, motion, etc., in a system may be measured.

frame of reference

the basic assumptions delimiting the subject matter of any discipline or approach. For example, PARSONS and Shils (1951) state, ‘The frame of reference of the theory of action involves actors, a situation of action, and the orientation of the actor to that situation.’

Frame of Reference


in mechanics, the aggregate of a system of coordinates and clocks associated with a body, in reference to which the motion or equilibrium of any other mass points or bodies is being studied. Any motion is relative, and the motion of a body must be examined in relation to some other body—the reference body—or to a system of bodies. For example, it is not possible to describe the motion of the moon in a general way; it is only possible to determine the motion in relation to the earth or the sun and the stars or some other heavenly body.

Mathematically, the motion of a body or mass point in relation to a chosen frame of reference is described by equations. The equations state how the coordinates defining the position of the body or point in a frame of reference change with the passage of time t. For example, if the Cartesian coordinates x, y, z are used, the motion of a point is determined by the equations x = f1(t), y = f2(t), z = f3(t). These equations are called equations of motion (seeKINEMATICS).

The choice of a frame of reference depends on the purpose of the investigation. In kinematic investigations, all frames of reference are equally valid. In problems in dynamics, inertial reference frames are preferred, for which differential equations of motion usually assume a simpler form.


Khaikin, S. E. Fizicheskie osnovy mekhaniki. Moscow, 1963. Sections 7 and 16.
Aizerman, M. A. Klassicheskaia mekhanika. Moscow, 1974. Chapter 1, sec. 1; ch.2, sec.2.


frame of reference

[¦frām əv ′ref·rəns]
A coordinate system for the purpose of assigning positions and times to events. Also known as reference frame.
References in periodicals archive ?
The term "allelocentric" was preferred because the Greek word allelos means "one another" and thus an allelocentric system of reference specifies a system of reference derived from both the visual and proprioceptive signals relating to the effector.
It will also help to (ii) draft a system of reference for professions and skills for priority jobs to be selected in three COMIFAC countries and based on an analysis of the gap between training offered by the institutions of the network and skills needs expressed by the private forestry and environmental sector.
Standards and specifications is a system of references that contain technical information related to products, services and organisations - they guarantee quality and usage capabilities.

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