DAVID PARKER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID PARKER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Plate from 18th century encyclopedia showing a table of conics. In mathematics, a conic section is a curve obtained as the intersection of a cone with a plane. In analytic geometry, a conic may be defined as a plane algebraic curve of degree 2. There are a number of other geometric definitions possible. Traditionally, the three types of conic section are the hyperbola, the parabola, and the ellipse. The circle is a special case of the ellipse, and is of sufficient interest in its own right that it is sometimes called the fourth type of conic section. The type of a conic corresponds to its eccentricity, those with eccentricity less than 1 being ellipses, those with eccentricity equal to 1 being parabolas, and those with eccentricity greater than 1 being hyperbolas. In the focus-directrix definition of a conic the circle is a limiting case with eccentricity 0.
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