Why Are There 2Pi Radians in a Circle?
Date: 11/24/2003 at 14:57:58 From: peter radian Subject: 2 PI RADIANS Why are there two pi radians in a circle? I know that it has something to do with the formula for the circumference of the circle, but I'm not sure how it works.
Date: 11/24/2003 at 16:10:16 From: Doctor Schwa Subject: Re: 2 PI RADIANS Hi Peter, The first thing you need to think about is how we define an angle of one radian. Suppose you have a piece of string that is used as the radius of a circle: hold one end of it still, and attach a pen to the other end to trace the circle. Now, how long would the distance around the circle, or the circumference, be? Let's measure it using the piece of string as your measuring tool. Lay the string on the circle. One piece of string long would make an arc of the circle equal to one radius in length. Now draw a radius of the circle where the string begins and another where it ends. The angle formed between those two radii is one radian. If you've done this right, that angle should look to be roughly 60 degrees. Now move your string so it starts where the last one ended and draw another angle of one radian. If you continue to do this all the way around the circle, you will find that after 6 radians you are almost all the way around. This suggests that the number of radians in a full circle is a little more than 6. How much more than 6 is it? Well, let's think about the forumla for the circumference of a circle, which is pi times diameter or 2 times pi times radius: C = 2 * pi * r Since the radius is the same as the length of string you are using, we can think of this as: C = 2pi * string length We're trying to figure out how many of those string lengths we need to go all the way around the circle, so let's divide the circumference by the string length and find out. Using the last equation and dividing both both sides by 'string length' we get: circumference ------------- = 2pi string length This tells us that there are exactly 2pi string lengths needed to go all the way around the circle. Since each string length creates a central angle of 1 radian, there must also be 2pi radians in a circle. Remember that when we used the string we figured that there were a little more than 6 radians in a circle. What's the numerical value of 2pi? Using 3.14, we get 2 * 3.14 = 6.28 radians in a circle. That's a little more than 6, as we predicted! Does that help clear things up? If not, you might also find some useful information in the Dr. Math archives: Degrees and Radians Explained http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/55450.html From Degrees to Radians http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/57783.html Are Angles Dimensionless? http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/64034.html Enjoy, - Doctor Schwa, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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