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### Parabolas in Everyday Life

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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?
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```
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
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

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

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