Opinions on Normal (geometry)

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"Normal vector" redirects here. For a normalized vector, or vector of length one, see unit vector.
This article is about the normal to 3D surfaces. For the normal to 3D curves, see Frenet–Serret formulas.

In geometry, a normal is an object such as a line or vector that is perpendicular to a given object. For example, in the two-dimensional case, the normal line to a curve at a given point is the line perpendicular to the tangent line to the curve at the point.

In the three-dimensional case a surface normal, or simply normal, to a surface at a point P is a vector that is perpendicular to the tangent plane to that surface at P. The word "normal" is also used as an adjective: a line normal to a plane, the normal component of a force, the normal vector, etc. The concept of normality generalizes to orthogonality.

The concept has been generalized to differentiable manifolds of arbitrary dimension embedded in a Euclidean space. The normal vector space or normal space of a manifold at a point P is the set of the vectors which are orthogonal to the tangent space at P. In the case of differential curves, the curvature vector is a normal vector of special interest.

The normal is often used in computer graphics to determine a surface's orientation toward a light source for flat shading, or the orientation of each of the corners (vertices) to mimic a curved surface with Phong shading.


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