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Intersecting Chords Theorem

The Intersecting Chords Theorem asserts the following very useful fact:

Given a point P in the interior of a circle, pass two lines through P that intersect the circle in points A and D and, respectively, B and C. ThenAPDP = BPCP. The proof follows easily from the similarity of triangles ABP and CDP that is a consequence of the equality of their angles:
BAD = BCD, ABC = ADC, APB = CPD, as inscribed angles subtended by the same chord BD, as inscribed angles subtended by the same chord AC, as a pair of vertical angles.

(Vertical angles are formed by the same intersecting lines, but the opposite rays - the halves of the lines - cut off by their point of intersection.) From the similarity of triangles ABP and CDP, we obtain the proportion:
(*) AP/CP = BP/DP = AB/CD.

The first identity (AP/CP = BP/DP) leads directly to the Intersecting Chords Theorem: APDP = BPCP. Since the proof only uses the equality of the first two ratios, a keen observer might inquire whether the third ratio (AB/CD) is of any use. The following problem (due to N. Vasil'ev) appeared in the Russian Kvant (M26,

March-April, 1991, 30) and was further popularized by R. Honsberger in hisMathematical Chestnuts from Around the World. Boat 1 and boat 2, which travel at constant speeds, not necessarily the same, depart at the same time from docks A and C, respectively, on the banks of a circular lake. If they go straight to docks D and B, respectively, they collide. Prove that if boat 1 goes instead straight to dock B and boat 2 goes straight to dock D, they arrive at their destinations simultaneously. The proof follows (*) by involving the third ratio! First, let v1 and v2 be the speeds of the boats. The fact that they collide if the first is headed from A to D and the second from C to B, means that they arrive at point P simultaneously, i.e., AP/v1 = CP/v2. The latter immediately translates into AP/CP = v1/v2. Taking (*) into account, this implies AB/CD = v1/v2, or AB/v1 = CD/v2, which exactly means that, if boat 1 heads to B and boat 2 heads to D, they arrive there simultaneously.


R. Honsberger, Mathematical Chestnuts from Around the World, MAA, 2001, p. 115

Power of a Point Theorem

Given a point P and a circle, pass two lines through P that intersect the circle in points A and D and, respectively, B and C. Then APDP = BPCP. The point P may lie either inside or outside the circle. The line through A and D (or that through B and C or both) may be tangent to the circle, in which case A and D coalesce into a single point. In all the cases, the theorem holds and is known as the Power of a Point Theorem. When the point P is inside the circle, the theorem is also known as the Theorem of Intersecting Chords (or the Intersecting Chords Theorem) and has a beautiful interpretation. When the point P is outside the circle, the theorem becomes the Theorem of Intersecting Secants (or theIntersecting Secants Theorem.) The proof is exactly the same in all three cases mentioned above. Since triangles ABP and CDP are similar, the following equality holds: AP/CP = BP/DP, which is equivalent to the statement of the theorem: APDP = BPCP. The common value of the products then depends only on P and the circle and is known as the Power of Point P with Respect to the Circle. Note that, when P lies outside the circle, its power equals the length of the square of the tangent from P to the circle.

Sometimes it is useful to employ signed segments. The convenience is that it is possible to tell points inside the circle from the points outside the circle. The power of a point inside the circle is negative, whereas that of a point outside the circle is positive. This is exactly what one obtains from the algebraic definition of the power of a point. The theorem is reversible: Assume points A, B, C, and D are not collinear. Let P be the intersection of AD and BC such that APDP = BPCP. Then the four points A, B, C, and D are concyclic. To see that draw a circle through, say, A, B, and C. Assume it intersects AP at D'. Then, as was shown above,APD'P = BPCP, from which D = D'. (If, say, B and C coincide, draw the circle through A tangent to PB at B.)

Euler's Formula and Poncelet Porism

Euler's formula that relates the circumradius, the inradius and the distance between the circumcenter and the incenter of a triangle serves the basis for the Poncelet porism for triangles. The circumradius (R), the inradius (r) and the distance between the circumcenter and the incenter (d) of a triangle stand in an elegant relationship
1/(R - d) + 1/(R + d) = 1/r,

which we shall prove in the form

(1) 2Rr = R2 d2.

Let ABC be a triangle with circumcenter O and incenter I. Extend AI to meet the circumcircle the second time at K. Extend OK and OI to obtain two diameters UV and KK' of the circumcricle.

By the Intersecting Chords Theorem,

(2) AIIK = IUIV = (R + d)(R - d) = R2 - d2.

Next, in ICK, CIK is external to ACI. Thus, if angles of ABC are denoted , , and , we see that
CIK = ( + )/2.

On the other hand,

IC = BCI + K BCK = /2 + BAK = /2 + /2.

It follows that CIK = ICK making ICK isosceles so that

(3) IK = KC.

Let Z be the point of tangency of AB and the incircle. AIZ is right with angle at A equal /2. CKK' is also right with angle at K' equal CAK = /2. The two triangles are similar, from which we get a proportion:
AI / IZ = KK' / KC.

This is the same as

(4) AIKC = IZKK' = r2R

The combination of (2), (3), and (4) yields (1). (Elsewhere there is a different proof of the formula.) Note that a similar result holds for excircles, for example,
(5) 2Rra = da2 R2,

where ra is the A-excircle and da the distance between the circumcenter and the A-excenter.

The proof must be slightly modified. For example, instead of the Intersecting Chords Theorem, we make use of the Intersecting Secants Theorem.
(da + R) (da - R) = IaU IaV = IaA IaK = IaA KC = (IaZ KK'/KC) KC = ra 2R.

The identity can be written in an elegant way:

(6) 1/(d - R) - 1/(d + R) = 1/r.

In addition,


= 4R(ra - r), and

IbIc = 4R(rb + 2 rc).

To see that, apply the formula for the length of a median to triangles OIIa and OIbIb:
OI2 + OIa2 OIb2 + OIc2 = 2 OK2 + IIa2/2, and = 2 OK'2 + IbIb2/2

and use the just derived formulas for OI2, OIa2, and similar.

By reversing the argument, we can establish Poncelet porism for triangles.

Poncelet Porism

If the distance d between the centers of two circles O(R) and I(r) satisfies (1), an infinite number of triangles may be circumscribed about the circle I(r) which also be inscribed in the circle O(R). Indeed, from any point A on O(R) draw two chords AB and AC tangent to the circle I(r). The line AI bisects angle BAC, and it follows from (1) that
AI IK = 2Rr.

From similar triangles AIZ and CKK',

AI CK = 2Rr,

and therefore IK = KC making I the incenter of ABC.

Note: in a similar manner, (6) insures that a porism exists also in case where the incircle is replaced by an excircle.