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### Find the Perimeter of the Fence

```Date: 02/19/2003 at 12:13:04
From: Dzevdan Kapetanovic
Subject: Geometry

A convex polygon with perimeter P has a fence around it. The distance
from the polygon to the fence is 1m. How long is the fence?

It's hard to get a geometrical picture to work with. The sides of the
fence must be parallel to the sides of the polygon, since distance is
defined to be the orthogonal line between two sides. So the problem is
the edges. We don't know what angle an edge has, because it seems the
fence must be curved along the edges (an arc with radius 1) so that
the distance can be 1 m. Or is it just enough that the distance from
the edge of the fence to the edge of the polygon is 1 m?

Best regards.
```

```
Date: 02/19/2003 at 16:59:06
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: Geometry

Hi, Dzevdan.

Let's draw an arbitrary polygon to illustrate what is happening:

..|...........|..
\  |           |  .
.   A-----------B----
.   /            |   .
.   /             |   .
.   /              |   .
.   /               |   .
.   /                |   .
.   /                 |   .
.   D                  |   .
/  \                 |   .
/.     \               |   .
.     \             |   .
.     \           |   .
.     \         |   .
.     \       |   .
.     \     |   .
.     \   |   .
.     \ |   .
.     C-----
. /    .
/ .....

Here I have drawn a quadrilateral ABCD, with a "fence" around it one
unit away. I have interpreted this as you did, so that the fence is
parallel to the edges where possible, and makes an arc with radius 1
unit at the corners. I have drawn the radii at the start and end of
each arc, which of course are perpendicular to the neighboring edge
of the polygon.

Note that I have thus decomposed the region between the polygon and
the fence into rectangles and circular sectors. Now consider what
happens if you put all the sectors together into one circle,
essentially collapsing the polygon into a point by reducing each edge
to nothing:

..|..
\  |  .
.   +----
./    .
/ .....

Can you see how you can now find the perimeter of the fence, without
having to know anything about the polygon except that it is convex,
and what its perimeter is?

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```

```
Date: 02/20/2003 at 18:59:51
From: Dzevdan Kapetanovic
Subject: Geometry

Hello Dr. Peterson!

I am very thankful for an answer!

It's hard for me to see the last picture exactly, and my English
isn't quite the best, but as I understand it, you formed a circle with
those arcs that are around every edge in the polygon. That's
possible because you get a fence that consists of straight sides and
arcs. Then if you let the sides go to 0, you will get a circle that
will certainly have a radius of 1 unit. Then the length of those arcs
is 2*pi, and the sum of the lengths of those sides of the fence,
parallel to the polygon sides, are certainly P. So then the total
length would be P + 2*pi right? Is that correct?

That's what I got before, too (the first time I wrote to you), but it
seems like I had the wrong argument. I assumed that if you formed a
circle of the fence and a circle of the polygon then the distance
would still be 1 unit between them and certainly they would still
have same lengths.

Best regards

Kapetanovic
```

```
Date: 02/20/2003 at 22:02:36
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: Geometry

Hi, Dzevdan.

It would be difficult to prove your assumption that the length of the
fence would be the same regardless of the shape of the polygon, but
having shown that it is true for any convex polygon, it does appear
that it is true. You could form regular polygons with more and more
sides, and in the limit the length of the fence around a circle would
still be P + 2 pi. This reminds me of the well-known problem that
asks how much wire would have to be added to a cable around the world
if you raised it one meter off the ground; or, conversely how high it
would rise if you added 6 meters to its length.

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics:
High School Euclidean/Plane Geometry

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