coordinate system

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A system that uniquely specifies points in a plane or in three-dimensional space. The simplest coordinate system is the Cartesian coordinate system. In a plane two coordinates are necessary to specify a point. In three-dimensional space three coordinates are required. Many coordinate systems can be used to specify a point; however, sometimes one particular coordinate system is more convenient than others; indeed, certain problems can be solved in one coordinate system but not in others. For example, the Schrödinger equation for the hydrogen atom can be solved using spherical polar coordinates but not using Cartesian coordinates.

Subjects: Physics.

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