# MATH11007 NOTES 15: PARAMETRIC CURVES, ARCLENGTH ETC.

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1 MATH117 NOTES 15: PARAMETRIC CURVES, ARCLENGTH ETC. 1. Parametric representation of curves The position of a particle moving in three-dimensional space is often specified by an equation of the form For instance, take x(t) = (x(t), y(t), z(t)). x(t) = cost, y(t) = sin t, z(t) = for t >. We might think of the parameter t as time. As t varies, the particle s position changes, and the curve described by the above equation is the trajectory of the particle. In this particular example, it is obvious that the trajectory is circular; indeed x 2 (t) + y 2 (t) = 1 for every t >. We say that (cost,sint,), t < 2π, is a parametric representation of the circle of equation x 2 + y 2 = 1 in R 3. Example Some examples and a bit of MAPLE (x(t),y(t)) = (t 2, t/(t 2)), t R, is a parametric representation of a hyberbola. To see this, we eliminate the parameter t: t = x + 2. Hence y = (x + 2)/x = 1 + 2/x. Example 2.2. The curve represented parametrically by (x(t), y(t)) = (t + sin t, 1 cost), t R, is not so familiar. We can use MAPLE to plot it. MAPLE is a mathematical software for which the university has a license, and which is installed on the undergraduate computers in the laboratory. Look for it amongst the applications, double-click. When it comes up, select the Start with a blank worksheet option. At the prompt, type?plot[parametric]. This explains how to plot parametric curves, and provides some examples. To plot our curve, we use > plot([t+sin(t),1-cos(t),t=-2*pi..2*pi]); c University of Bristol 212. This material is copyright of the University unless explicitly stated otherwise. It is provided exclusively for educational purposes at the University and is to be downloaded or copied for your private stu only. 1

2 2 MATH117 NOTES 15: PARAMETRIC CURVES, ARCLENGTH ETC. The result is shown in Figure 1 (a). The curve is called the cycloid; it is the curve that describes the trajectory of a point fixed on the rim of a bicycle wheel, as the wheel goes forward. Example 2.3. Consider the curve defined parametrically by (x(t), y(t)) = ( 3t/(1 + t 3 ),3t 2 /(1 + t 3 ) ), t R. The MAPLE command > plot([3*t/(1+t^3),3*t^2/(1+t^3),t=-1/2..16*pi]); produces the plot shown in Figure 1 (b). You can easily verify that x 3 + y 3 = 3xy. The curve is called the folium of Descartes. (a) (b) Figure 1. Two famous curves: (a) the cycloid; (b) the folium of Descartes. 3. The tangent line of a curve (in two dimensions) at a point We have alrea discussed the problem of determining the line tangent to a curve at a point when the curve can be expressed in the form y = f(x). But now we consider the case where the curve is expressed in parametric form, i.e. (x(t), y(t)), t [a, b]. To find the equation of the line tangent to the curve at, say t [a, b], we need to compute dx at (x(t ), y(t )).

3 MATH117 NOTES 15: PARAMETRIC CURVES, ARCLENGTH ETC. 3 We have, by the chain rule, d y(x(t)) = dt dx (x(t))dx dt (t). So we find dx (x(t dt )) = (t ) dx dt (t ). This result is more neatly expressed if we use the prime symbol to indicate differentiation with respect to x, and the dot symbol to indicate differentiation with respect to t. Then y (x(t )) = ẏ(t ) ẋ(t ). So the equation for the tangent line is x x(t ) = ẏ(t ) ẋ(t ). The equation of the normal line is easily deduced: Example 3.1. For the circle the equation of the tangent line at t is The equation of the normal line at t is Consider a curve of equation x x(t ) = ẋ(t ) ẏ(t ). x(t) = cost and y(t) = sin t, x x(t ) = cott. x x(t ) = tant. 4. Arclength y = f(x). The length of the infinitesimal arc between the points of horizontal coordinates x and x + dx is ds = dx See Figure 2. If the curve is expressed in the parametric form then (x(t), y(t)), a t b, ds = ẋ 2 + ẏ 2 dt. We deduce that the length of the curve between t = a and t = b is b a ẋ2 + ẏ 2 dt.

4 4 MATH117 NOTES 15: PARAMETRIC CURVES, ARCLENGTH ETC. Example 4.1. The perimeter of the circle of equation is x(t) = a cost, y(t) = a sin t, a 2 sin 2 t + a 2 cos 2 t dt = Example 4.2. The curve defined parametrically by is an ellipse. Its perimeter is x(t) = a cost, y(t) = b sint, a 2 sin 2 t + b 2 cos 2 t dt. a dt = 2π a. It is not straightforward to compute the value of this integral. It may be expressed in terms of the so-called elliptic functions. 5. Curvature For a curve of equation y = f(x) this is defined as y (x) (5.1) κ(x) := {. 1 + [y (x)] 2}3 2 See Sheet 3, Q 9. Let us work out the curvature when the curve is expressed in the parametric form (x(t), y(t)). We have shown earlier that y = ẏ ẋ. Hence, by the chain rule, d dt y = y ẋ, and so d dt y d ẏ = dt ẋ y ÿẋ ẏẍ = = ẋ ẋ ẋ 3. Hence the parametric form of the curvature (5.1) is ÿẋ ẏẍ κ(t) =. [ẋ 2 + ẏ 2 ] 3 2 Example 5.1. For the ellipse of equation we find κ(t) = x(t) = a cost ab sin 2 t + ab cos 2 t [ a2 sin 2 t + b 2 cos 2 t ]3 2 and y(t) = b sint = ab [ a2 sin 2 t + b 2 cos 2 t ] 3 2 In particular, for the circle, a = b and we obtain the expected result κ(t) = 1 a..

5 MATH117 NOTES 15: PARAMETRIC CURVES, ARCLENGTH ETC. 5 y = f(x) ds Figure 2. The length of an infinitesimal arc of the curve y = f(x) is ds = dx dx References 1. Frank Ayres, Jr. and Elliott Mendelson, Schaum s Outline of Calculus, Fourth Edition, Mc- Graw Hill, E. Hairer and G. Wanner, Analysis by its History, Springer-Verlag, New-York, 1996.

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