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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
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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.
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Experiment 1 shows that when the frames of reference provided by the model, the room and the body are consistent and the goal location is directly signaled by a guidance-cue, 6- and 10-year-old children quickly learn to solve the task, with no differences by age or gender.
We constantly experience the shifting of our symbolic frames of reference and inference.
The themes were organized in a cohesive manner, which began by introducing multiculturalism and then transitioned into discussing cultural frames of reference and perspective.
This does not, however, leave us bereft of knowledge, wallowing in our private frames of reference. It requires what Kaplan calls judgment or assessment.
Smith and Wortzel (1993) found that advertising containing suggested frames of reference was more effective in influencing purchase decisions of consumer durable products (video cameras) than ads that did not.
But rather than just treating these as simply two actors with different frames of reference, policy analysts should seek to devise institutional arrangements to help resolve those disagreements according to professional/scientific norms.
Instead of accepting the notion that individual learning or changes in frames of reference are based on environmental response, I assume that the individual stays within his or her existing frame of reference and chooses the environmental responses that confirm this frame of reference.
Increasingly, special relativity has been applied to accelerated frames of reference for which the theory does not apply.
A team inspection is one of the most effective ways to review maintenance-related issues because it adds new perspectives to more familiar frames of reference. A super who sees a property on a daily basis might miss a small crack in the basement ceiling because it has become part of the fabric of the physical environment.
The value of this book is its ability to enable readers to cross national borders, disciplinary boundaries, and cultural frames of reference to make such unexpected connections.
There are discrepancies, up to 40[deg.] in direction, and the astronomers do not wish to gloss them over, but the agreement on the drift is much better with reference to the microwave background than it is with other frames of reference. The remaining discrepancies probably come from the other surveys having less thorough coverage in some directions than in others, a result of those observers not being able to get enough telescope time at a geographically widespread variety of observatories.
This consideration is due to that fact that the theory of relativity permits different frames of reference, including light-like and super-luminal reference frames.