cone or conical surface, in mathematics, surface generated by a moving line (the generator) that passes through a given fixed point (the vertex) and continually intersects a given fixed curve (the directrix). The generator creates two conical surfaces—one above and one below the vertex—called nappes. If the directing curve is a conic section (e.g., a circle or ellipse) the cone is called a quadric cone. The most common type of cone is the right circular cone, a quadric cone in which the directrix is a circle and the line drawn from the vertex to the center of the circle is perpendicular to the circle. The generator of a cone in any of its positions is called an element. The solid bounded by a conical surface and a plane (the base) whose intersection with the conical surface is a closed curve is also called a cone. The altitude of a cone is the perpendicular distance from its vertex to its base. The lateral area is the area of its conical surface. The volume is equal to one third the product of the altitude and the area of the base. The frustum of a cone is the portion of the cone between the base and a plane parallel to the base of the cone cutting the cone in two parts.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.