In mathematics, orthogonality is the generalization of the geometric notion of perpendicularity. Whereas perpendicular is typically followed by to when relating two lines to one another (e.g., "line A is perpendicular to line B"), orthogonal is commonly used without to (e.g., "orthogonal lines A and B").
Orthogonality is also used with various meanings that are often weakly related or not related at all with the mathematical meanings.
Etymology
The word comes from the
Ancient Greek (
), meaning "upright",[Liddell and Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon s.v. ὀρθός] and (), meaning "angle".
[Liddell and Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon s.v. γωνία]
The Ancient Greek ( ) and Classical Latin originally denoted a rectangle.[Liddell and Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon s.v. ὀρθογώνιον] Later, they came to mean a right triangle. In the 12th century, the postclassical Latin word orthogonalis came to mean a right angle or something related to a right angle.
Mathematics
Physics
Optics
In
optics, polarization states are said to be orthogonal when they propagate independently of each other, as in vertical and horizontal linear polarization or right and lefthanded circular polarization.
Special relativity
In special relativity, a time axis determined by a
rapidity of motion is hyperbolicorthogonal to a space axis of simultaneous events, also determined by the rapidity. The theory features relativity of simultaneity.
Hyperbolic orthogonality
Quantum mechanics
In quantum mechanics, a sufficient (but not necessary) condition that two
eigenstates of a Hermitian operator,
$\backslash psi\_m$ and
$\backslash psi\_n$, are orthogonal is that they correspond to different eigenvalues. This means, in
Dirac notation, that
$\backslash langle\; \backslash psi\_m\; \; \backslash psi\_n\; \backslash rangle\; =\; 0$ if
$\backslash psi\_m$ and
$\backslash psi\_n$ correspond to different eigenvalues. This follows from the fact that Schrödinger's equation is a Sturm–Liouville equation (in Schrödinger's formulation) or that observables are given by Hermitian operators (in Heisenberg's formulation).
Art
In art, the perspective (imaginary) lines pointing to the
vanishing point are referred to as "orthogonal lines". The term "orthogonal line" often has a quite different meaning in the literature of modern art criticism. Many works by painters such as
Piet Mondrian and
Burgoyne Diller are noted for their exclusive use of "orthogonal lines" — not, however, with reference to perspective, but rather referring to lines that are straight and exclusively horizontal or vertical, forming right angles where they intersect. For example, an essay at the
Website of the ThyssenBornemisza Museum states that "Mondrian ... dedicated his entire oeuvre to the investigation of the balance between orthogonal lines and primary colours."
Computer science
Orthogonality in programming language design is the ability to use various language features in arbitrary combinations with consistent results.
[Michael L. Scott, Programming Language Pragmatics, p. 228.] This usage was introduced by Van Wijngaarden in the design of Algol 68:
The number of independent primitive concepts has been minimized in order that the language be easy to describe, to learn, and to implement. On the other hand, these concepts have been applied “orthogonally” in order to maximize the expressive power of the language while trying to avoid deleterious superfluities.[1968, Adriaan van Wijngaarden et al., Revised Report on the Algorithmic Language ALGOL 68, section 0.1.2, Orthogonal design]
Orthogonality is a system design property which guarantees that modifying the technical effect produced by a component of a system neither creates nor propagates side effects to other components of the system. Typically this is achieved through the separation of concerns and encapsulation, and it is essential for feasible and compact designs of complex systems. The emergent behavior of a system consisting of components should be controlled strictly by formal definitions of its logic and not by side effects resulting from poor integration, i.e., nonorthogonal design of modules and interfaces. Orthogonality reduces testing and development time because it is easier to verify designs that neither cause side effects nor depend on them.
Orthogonal instruction set
An
instruction set is said to be orthogonal if it lacks redundancy (i.e., there is only a single instruction that can be used to accomplish a given task)
and is designed such that instructions can use any register in any
addressing mode. This terminology results from considering an instruction as a vector whose components are the instruction fields. One field identifies the registers to be operated upon and another specifies the addressing mode. An orthogonal instruction set uniquely encodes all combinations of registers and addressing modes.
Telecommunications
In telecommunications,
multiple access schemes are orthogonal when an ideal receiver can completely reject arbitrarily strong unwanted signals from the desired signal using different
. One such scheme is timedivision multiple access (TDMA), where the orthogonal basis functions are nonoverlapping rectangular pulses ("time slots").
Orthogonal frequencydivision multiplexing
Another scheme is orthogonal frequencydivision multiplexing (OFDM), which refers to the use, by a single transmitter, of a set of frequency multiplexed signals with the exact minimum frequency spacing needed to make them orthogonal so that they do not interfere with each other. Well known examples include (
a,
g, and
n) versions of 802.11
WiFi;
WiMAX;
ITUT G.hn,
DVBT, the terrestrial digital TV broadcast system used in most of the world outside North America; and DMT (Discrete Multi Tone), the standard form of
ADSL.
In OFDM, the subcarrier frequencies are chosen so that the subcarriers are orthogonal to each other, meaning that crosstalk between the subchannels is eliminated and intercarrier guard bands are not required. This greatly simplifies the design of both the transmitter and the receiver. In conventional FDM, a separate filter for each subchannel is required.
Statistics, econometrics, and economics
When performing statistical analysis, independent variables that affect a particular dependent variable are said to be orthogonal if they are uncorrelated,
since the covariance forms an inner product. In this case the same results are obtained for the effect of any of the independent variables upon the dependent variable, regardless of whether one models the effects of the variables individually with simple regression or simultaneously with multiple regression. If
correlation is present, the factors are not orthogonal and different results are obtained by the two methods. This usage arises from the fact that if centered by subtracting the
expected value (the mean), uncorrelated variables are orthogonal in the geometric sense discussed above, both as observed data (i.e., vectors) and as random variables (i.e., density functions).
One
econometrics formalism that is alternative to the maximum likelihood framework, the Generalized Method of Moments, relies on orthogonality conditions. In particular, the Ordinary Least Squares estimator may be easily derived from an orthogonality condition between the explanatory variables and model residuals.
Taxonomy
In taxonomy, an orthogonal classification is one in which no item is a member of more than one group, that is, the classifications are mutually exclusive.
Chemistry and biochemistry
In chemistry and biochemistry, an orthogonal interaction occurs when there are two pairs of substances and each substance can interact with their respective partner, but does not interact with either substance of the other pair. For example,
DNA has two orthogonal pairs: cytosine and guanine form a basepair, and adenine and thymine form another basepair, but other basepair combinations are strongly disfavored. As a chemical example, tetrazine reacts with transcyclooctene and azide reacts with cyclooctyne without any crossreaction, so these are mutually orthogonal reactions, and so, can be performed simultaneously and selectively.
Organic synthesis
In organic synthesis, orthogonal protection is a strategy allowing the deprotection of
independently of each other.
Bioorthogonal chemistry
Supramolecular chemistry
In supramolecular chemistry the notion of orthogonality refers to the possibility of two or more supramolecular, often
noncovalent, interactions being compatible; reversibly forming without interference from the other.
Analytical chemistry
In analytical chemistry, analyses are "orthogonal" if they make a measurement or identification in completely different ways, thus increasing the reliability of the measurement. Orthogonal testing thus can be viewed as "crosschecking" of results, and the "cross" notion corresponds to the etymologic origin of
orthogonality. Orthogonal testing is often required as a part of a new drug application.
System reliability
In the field of system reliability orthogonal redundancy is that form of redundancy where the form of backup device or method is completely different from the prone to error device or method. The failure mode of an orthogonally redundant backup device or method does not intersect with and is completely different from the failure mode of the device or method in need of redundancy to safeguard the total system against catastrophic failure.
Neuroscience
In
neuroscience, a sensory map in the brain which has overlapping stimulus coding (e.g. location and quality) is called an orthogonal map.
Philosophy
In
philosophy, two topics, authors, or pieces of writing are said to be "orthogonal" to each other when they do not substantively cover what could be considered potentially overlapping or competing claims. Thus, texts in philosophy can either support and complement one another, they can offer competing explanations or systems, or they can be orthogonal to each other in cases where the scope, content, and purpose of the pieces of writing are entirely unrelated.
Gaming
In board games such as
chess which feature a grid of squares, 'orthogonal' is used to mean "in the same row/'rank' or column/'file'". This is the counterpart to squares which are "diagonally adjacent".
In the ancient Chinese board game Go a player can capture the stones of an opponent by occupying all orthogonally adjacent points.
Other examples
Stereo vinyl records encode both the left and right stereo channels in a single groove. The Vshaped groove in the vinyl has walls that are 90 degrees to each other, with variations in each wall separately encoding one of the two analogue channels that make up the stereo signal. The cartridge senses the motion of the stylus following the groove in two orthogonal directions: 45 degrees from vertical to either side.
[For an illustration, see YouTube.] A pure horizontal motion corresponds to a mono signal, equivalent to a stereo signal in which both channels carry identical (inphase) signals.
See also

Orthogonal ligandprotein pair

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