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ulus II Se tion 1: Dr. Judd

Lab 4: Ar length

25 points, due Monday 4 Mar h in lass.

The assignment is due at the start of lass Monday 4 Mar h. It is your responsibility to download
the lab and work on it in a timely manner.
The only way to submit the lab is by printing it out and bringing it to lass. I will not a ept the
ele troni le in an email, on a oppy disk, or any other way. You may work with your lassmates
on this assignment, but you should produ e your own do ument on your own omputer. Taking
someone's do ument and hanging the name and a word or two violates our integrity poli y.
The goal of this lab is to develop the idea of approximating ar length by the sum of the lengths
of straight line approximations to the urve, and to use S ienti Notebook to al ulate ar length
using integrals.
The idea of length of a urve is very easy to understand. You have had experien e al ulating
the length of straight lines and ir les. Intuitively, the length of the urve on the left in Figure 1
should be the length of the straight line we get on the right if we take the ends of the urve and
pull it taut. Although this idea is easy to understand, it is not mu h good as a pra ti al method
of omputation.

Figure 1: The length of a urve

1. We start by reviewing the method for al ulating the length of a straight line segment.
(a) Find the length of the straight line segment from (1; 2) to (5; 4) shown in Figure 2. The
lengths of the two sides of the right triangle are 4 2 = 2 and 5 1 = 4. You an use
Pythagoras's Theorem to determine the length of the hypotenuse.
(b) Now generalize this example to nd a formula for the length of the segment of the
straight line y = mx + from x = a to x = b. This is the line segment onne ting
the points
p (a; ) and (b; ). Show the ne essary work to get the length equal to
(b a) 1 + m2 . Che k your answer to (a) using this formula.
( ) Write an expression for the length of the urve in Figure 3 made up of four straight line
segments with slopes m1, m2, m3 and m4.

6 (5; 4)

(1; 2)

Figure 2: The length of a straight line

2. We are now ready to try to nd the length of a urve de ned by y = f (x) for a  x  b,
where the urve is not ne essarily a straight line. Consider, for example, the graph y = sin x
for 0  x  , shown in Figure 4.
(a) A rude approximation to the length of the urve would be the straight line distan e
between the end points of the urve. Compute this distan e. Is this value bigger or
smaller than the a tual ar length of this graph?
(b) A better approximation would be found by dividing [0; ℄ into two pie es and adding
the straight line distan e from (0; 0) to (=2; 1) to the distan e from (=2; 1) to (1; 0).
See Figure 4. Compute this distan e. How is it related to the answer in (a)? How is it
related to the a tual ar length?
( ) To get a more a urate answer, we will subdivide [0; ℄ more nely yet. Graph y = sin x
on the interval [0; ℄ and then add to your graph the straight line approximation to the
urve using four subintervals of equal length. On a di erent graph, plot the urve again,
but this time add the straight line approximation to the urve using eight subintervals
of equal length.
3. The next stage is to use the omputer to al ulate the lengths of these straight line approx-
imations. For ea h of the following four fun tions, determine the length of the straight line
approximations to ar length using 2, 4, 8, 25, 50 and 100 subintervals of equal length. Make
your best guess at the length of the urve, a urate to at least two de imal pla es. Re ord
your data in a suitably labeled table.
Clearly, to nd the lengths of the straight line approximations you will need a summation.
Here is an example. Let (x) = os x, and suppose we want to nd the length of this
on the interval [0; ℄. Position the ursor over the de nition of the fun tion and sele t

m2 m3

x0 x1 x2 x3 x4

Figure 3: The length of straight line segments

.. ........ .....
... ... ....
.. ...
.. ...
.. ...
.. ...
.. ...
.. . .

Figure 4: The length of an ar

Compute/De ne/New De nition. The summation formula is shown below

s  n( (a + k(b 
b aX
a)=n) (a + (k 1)(b a)=n)) 2
l(a; b; n) = 1+ :
n k=1
b a

Position your ursor over this formula and sele t Compute/De ne/New De nition. Now try
it out with a = 0, b =  and di erent values of n (the number of subintervals|it should be
a positive integer).
(a) f (x) = psin x for 0  x  
(b) g(x) = 9 x2 for 0  x  3
( ) h(x) = x6 + 21x for 1  x  3

(d) m(x) = ex for 0  x  1
(e) You an nd the exa t answer for the ar length of one of these urves without using
al ulus or the omputer. Whi h urve is it and what is the exa t answer?

... ...................... .......................
.. ......
.... y
.. ...
.. .
.. x
... .

a xk 1 xk b

Figure 5: Approximating ar length

It is possible to write an integral for the length of the urve y = f (x) for a  x  b. The
derivation of the formula given in the textbook relies on the geometri ideas we have been
using in this lab. We have seen in Problems 1 and 2 that the ar length is approximated by
n q   X s  
X yk 2
1 + m2k b n
= 1 + x x ;
k=1 k=1 k

where x = (b a)=n and the slope of the kth straight line segment is mk = yk =xk (see
Figure 5). As x ! 0, we know that yk =xk ! f 0(x). Therefore the ar length equals
s  2 Z bp
1 + xyk x =
1 + f 0(x)2 dx :
k=1 k a

For example, R0 1 + os2 x dx gives the length of the urve f (x) = sin x for 0  x  .
Convin e yourself that this is the orre t integral.
Although we now have an integral formula for ar length, in pra ti e it is diÆ ult (or impos-
sible) to apply the Fundamental Theorem of Cal ulus to most of the resulting integrals. This
leaves us needing a numeri al integration te hnique to approximate the value. For example,
we annot integrate R0 p1 + os2 x dx exa tly, but we an use a omputer to nd that the
value of the integral is approximately 3.8202.
4. We shall now ompute the ar lengths using the integral.
(a) Write the appropriate integrals for the ar lengths for the urves given in problems 3b,
3 and 3d.
(b) The integral for 3 may be omputed by hand. Do it and show your work.
( ) Use S i Notebook to nd the value of the integrals for 3b and 3d.
(d) Compare your answers with those you found in Problem 3.
5.Extra Credit:

(a) Derive the summation formula yourself for l(a; b; n) given above.
(b) An approa h to nding the ar length that people sometimes think of is the stair ase
method. This method is to partition [a; b℄ into n pie es and approximate the ar length by
the sum of the verti al and horizontal lines as shown in Figure 6. Try a few al ulations
yourself. Unfortunately this does not work. Why not? What happens to the pi ture as
n be omes arbitrarily large? What happens to the sum as n in reases to in nity?

..... .................
... ........
.. ..
.. .
.. .

a b

Figure 6: A di erent way to nd ar length?

Robert Judd, 1 February 2002.