From 2010: US Supreme Court Justices react to use of the word “orthogonal” in an oral argument.

(In case any of y’all aren’t familiar with this use of the term: in computer circles, it generally means something along the lines of “unrelated” or “independent”; if you say “that issue is orthogonal to what we’re discussing,” you’re agreeing that the issue that was raised is an issue, but you’re saying that it doesn’t have direct bearing on the topic at hand. As Volokh implies, this usage derives (as far as I know) from its use in vector math.)

One Response to “orthogonal”

  1. Jeremy

    Perhaps too obvious for you to mention, but the etymology is instructive here–“right angled”. Something that is at a right angle to something else is fundamentally independent mathematically. Shifting a point on a vertical line doesn’t change its x-coordinate, but shifting a point on a non-vertical line does.


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