3D Physics Apps

3D Apps

Physics models matter and its interactions in a world with three spatial dimensions.  Predictions of the behavior of a particular system in space are usually in the form of equations.  It helps our understanding if we can visualize these predictions.  This is particular important for introductory physics courses.  Often, if we choose the coordinate system appropriately, two-dimensional visual representations are all that is needed, because either the system under consideration becomes two-dimensional (example:  projectile motion), or nothing changes as a function of the third coordinate (example:  the gravitational field near Earth's surface).  For other system, however, three-dimensional visual representations can give us a better understanding of the behavior of the system in three-dimensional space.

The 3D interactive animations below run in any modern browser.  No special plug-ins are needed.  Try them out and see if they are helpful to you.  Feel free to link to them.

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A 3D representation of a position vector

Electric field lines in 3D

Flux of a vector field

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Gauss' law

Equipotential surfaces of a charged sphere

Field lines and equipotential surfaces

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Motion of a charge in a uniform magnetic field

The vector or cross product
of two vectors A and B

The direction of the angular velocity ω

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Relative motion

Optics laboratory


Some 2D apps using the 3D library

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Drawing arrows to represent the electric field

From field vectors to direction indicators to field lines

Ray tracing - spherical mirrors (paraxial approximation)


Sound waves produced by a moving source