In mathematics, a curve (also called a curved line in older texts) is, generally speaking, an object similar to a line but which is not required to be straight. This entails that a line is a special case of curve, namely a curve with null curvature. Often curves in two-dimensional (plane curves) or three-dimensional (space curves) Euclidean space are of interest.
Various disciplines within mathematics have given the term different meanings depending on the area of study, so the precise meaning depends on context. However many of these meanings are special instances of the definition which follows. A curve is a topological space which is locally homeomorphic to a line. In every day language, this means that a curve is a set of points which, near each of its points, looks like a line, up to a deformation. A simple example of a curve is the parabola, shown to the right. A large number of other curves have been studied in multiple mathematical fields.
The term curve has several meanings in non-mathematical language as well. For example, it can be almost synonymous with mathematical function (as in learning curve), or graph of a function (as in Phillips curve).
An arc or segment of a curve is a part of a curve that is bounded by two distinct end points and contains every point on the curve between its end points. Depending on how the arc is defined, either of the two end points may or may not be part of it. When the arc is straight, it is typically called a line segment.
Famous quotes containing the word curve:
“The years-heired feature that can
In curve and voice and eye
Despise the human span
Of durancethat is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die.”
—Thomas Hardy (18401928)
“In philosophical inquiry, the human spirit, imitating the movement of the stars, must follow a curve which brings it back to its point of departure. To conclude is to close a circle.”
—Charles Baudelaire (18211867)
“Nothing ever prepares a couple for having a baby, especially the first one. And even baby number two or three, the surprises and challenges, the cosmic curve balls, keep on coming. We cant believe how much children change everythingthe time we rise and the time we go to bed; the way we fight and the way we get along. Even when, and if, we make love.”
—Susan Lapinski (20th century)