frame of reference

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Related to System of reference: Inertial reference system

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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005

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.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Physics. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006

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.’
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Then the obvious conflict between visual and proprioceptive information relating to the arm prevented seemingly the ability to locate accurately the visual target in relation to the visual hand, despite the fact that this corresponded to the relevant solution for an accurate spatial coding (allocentric system of reference).
The artist proposes an eclectic system of references that ironically invokes the cliches of painting; he mixes formats, materials, and techniques (acrylic, felt tip pen, pastel, collage, spray paint) and shifts registers between the cultivated and the popular.
Lienbacher approaches her subjects neither didactically nor strategically, but rather creates a media-rich system of references. Thus only in the play of meaning among her various works does it become apparent how she transposes her theme into a multifaceted, sensual expression.
When illustrator Robert Tinney was asked to draw a cover for a 1981 issue of Byte magazine dedicated to Smalltalk, he used the image of a colorful balloon departing from the ivory tower of hermitlike programming and ascending to what he described as the "heights of popular appeal." Translating the nerdy optimism of this future past into her own system of references, Davar exposes the disproportionate relation between the program's enormous impact on the global transformation of computer-related labor and the posthippie, fairy-tale mode of its PR aesthetic.

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