Improper rotation

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In 3D geometry, an improper rotation, also called rotoreflection or rotary reflection is, depending on context, a linear transformation or affine transformation which is the combination of a rotation about an axis and a reflection in a perpendicular plane.

Equivalently it is the combination of a rotation and an inversion in a point on the axis. Therefore it is also called a rotoinversion or rotary inversion.

In both cases the operations commute. Rotoreflection and rotoinversion are the same if they differ in angle of rotation by 180°, and the point of inversion is in the plane of reflection.

An improper rotation of an object thus produces a rotation of its mirror image. The axis is called the rotation-reflection axis. This is called an n-fold improper rotation if the angle of rotation is 360°/n. The notation Sn (S for Spiegel, German for mirror) denotes the symmetry group generated by an n-fold improper rotation (not to be confused with the same notation for symmetric groups). The notation Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "":): {\displaystyle \bar{n}} is used for n-fold rotoinversion, i.e. rotation by an angle of rotation of 360°/n with inversion.

In the wider sense, an improper rotation is an indirect isometry, i.e., an element of E(3)\E+(3) (see Euclidean group): it can also be a pure reflection in a plane, or have a glide plane. An indirect isometry is an affine transformation with an orthogonal matrix that has a determinant of −1.

A proper rotation is an ordinary rotation. In the wider sense, a proper rotation is a direct isometry, i.e., an element of E+(3): it can also be the identity, a rotation with a translation along the axis, or a pure translation. A direct isometry is an affine transformation with an orthogonal matrix that has a determinant of 1.

In the wider senses, the composition of two improper rotations is a proper rotation, and the product of an improper and a proper rotation is an improper rotation.

When studying the symmetry of a physical system under an improper rotation (e.g., if a system has a mirror symmetry plane), it is important to distinguish between vectors and pseudovectors (as well as scalars and pseudoscalars, and in general; between tensors and pseudotensors), since the latter transform differently under proper and improper rotations (pseudovectors are invariant under inversion).

See also

sv:Oegentlig rotation