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Parabolas in Everyday Life


Date: 05/18/2001 at 15:24:43
From: Brandon Ledesma
Subject: Parabolas in everyday life

What has been made from parabola shapes and other stuff?


Date: 05/22/2001 at 02:01:51
From: Doctor Douglas
Subject: Re: Parabolas in everyday life

Hi Brandon, and thanks for writing to Ask Dr. Math.

As it happens, I am sitting atop a mountain in southern Arizona, at 
8550 feet above sea level, in an astronomical observatory. I'm helping 
to take data using the telescope that is described here:

   Multiple Mirror Observatory (MMTO)
   http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/mmt/   

The key optical element in this telescope is a gigantic mirror

   http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/mmt/convpix.html   

whose diameter measures 6.5 meters across. This mirror has a cross 
section that is parabolic in shape, so as to focus the light from 
distant galaxies and stars onto an astronomical instrument, such as a 
CCD camera. There are several other mirrors and lenses in this 
telescope, and some of them have parabolic surfaces as well.

Parabolic mirrors are also used in everyday optical instruments, such 
as your flashlight, or the headlights of your car. They are also used 
in dishes for communications systems, such as satellite TV and radar 
dishes.

You can find more examples where parabolas and the other conic 
sections are used in everyday applications by visiting some of the 
following Webpages from our archives, and the links therein.

   Uses of Conics
   http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/martin.05.09.99.html   

   Practical Uses for Computing Parabolas
   http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/indon1.30.96.html   

   Applications of Parabolas
   http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/lau.10.24.00.html   

I hope this helps answer your question!

- Doctor Douglas, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/   
    
Associated Topics:
High School Conic Sections/Circles
High School Geometry
High School Practical Geometry

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