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loxodrome, tractrix∗†

Hans Dirnböck‡

and absolute polarity are explained. The spherical conic has an absolute

polar conic, they are equidistant to each other; they have the same evo-

lute curve. The well-known focus-properties are absolutely polarized.

The loxodrome and the spherical evolute curve are presented. Polar-

izing the loxodrome there results a spherical tractrix. Kinematic gener-

ation of these curves is shown.

odrome, spherical tractrix; spherical evolute curve, equidistant curves;

kinematic generation

In the EUKLIDean R3 we fix one point O(0/0/0) and so we get the nonEUKLIDean

elliptic geometry in the bundle with the elements:

straight lines 3 O, named “points”

planes 3 O, named “straight lines”.

Further we have:

cones of rotation, spit O, named “circles”

cones of 2nd deg., spit O, named “curves of 2nd degree”

cones, spit O, named “curves”

angles, formed by two straight lines, named “distance between points”

angles, formed by two planes, named “angles between straight lines”

† The author wants to express his best thanks to the referee and to the editorial staff.

‡ Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Didactics, University of Klagenfurt, Univer-

226 H. Dirnböck

and a plane 3 O This situation and a straight line

which are orthogonal (⊥) is named which are orthogonal (⊥)

are absolutely polar are absolutely polar”

Often we calculate with CARTESian coordinates and vectors. All elements and

shapes are extended in both directions from O. We write ⊥= 90o = 100g = π/2.

Figure 1.1. The bundle. All elements and shapes are extended in both directions

from O!

We introduce the unit sphere K with center O

x2 + y2 + z 2 = 1; (2.1)

all elements and shapes of 1. are intersected with this sphere. Now we get:

pairs of points, named “points”

great circles, named “straight lines”

Absolute polarity on the sphere 227

“curves of 2nd degree”

“curves”

“distance between points”

“angles between straight lines”

_

π

If point1point2 = 2, we are allowed to say “orthogonal points”.

\

If straight line1 straight line2 =

π

2, we say “orthogonal straight lines”.

π

If a point and a straight line which have the shortest distance = 2, are absolutely

polar, we are allowed to say that “they are orthogonal”.

This well-known transformation P which transforms points into straight lines,

so that distance = π2 , is the absolute polarity P, in this paper short polar-

ity P. We remark that P transforms distances into angles. P is an involutoric

transformation, so that P ◦ P = I = identity.

The geometries in the bundle 1. and on the sphere 2. are isomorphic; there

remain only questions of convenience, visualization, didactics, calculation, comput-

ing, constructive and descriptive geometry to choose the method of work. Often we

use spherical trigonometry. It is allowed to use the vocabulary of geography.

A line element is a point with direction. P transforms such a line element into

a line element.

Let “*” be the symbol for absolutely polarized elements.

We write P ∗ = P ◦ P or P ∗ ⊥ P , where P is a point, but P ∗ is a straight line,

we speak: P ∗ is the polar line of P .

We write g∗ = P ◦ g or g∗ ⊥ g, where g is a straight line, but g∗ is a point, we

speak: g∗ is the pole of g.

P =point

g = straight line

c =circle

_

P Q =distance

c =angle

gh

P ⊥g

Q⊥h

_

c

P Q = gh

228 H. Dirnböck

3. Spherical conics c

A cone Φ of 2nd degree has 3 midpoints, which we put into:

U = x − axis ∩ K

are on the “equator” ä

V = y − axis ∩ K

Now Φ can be written as

x2 y2

Φ ··· + − z2 = 0 (3.1)

tan2 a tan2 b

π

0<b≤a< , (3.2)

2

where a and b are the half lengths of the axes of Φ in the bundle.

Now the spherical conic c is

Eliminating x or y or z from (3.3) you can get the front view, the side view, the

top view, the formulas for Figure 3.1. Sometimes it is clever to work in the planes

z = 1 or z = −1:

x2 y2

cz = Φ ∩ (z = ±1) · · · tan 2 a + tan2 b = 1

(3.4)

AND z = ±1

cz · · · x = cos T tan a

y = sin T tan b (3.5)

z = ±1

Now we have

p

c ··· R = (cos T tan a)2 + (sin T tan b)2 + 1

x = R1 cos T tan a

(3.6)

y = R1 sin T tan b

1

z = ±R

Absolute polarity on the sphere 229

230 H. Dirnböck

π π

Figure 3.3. c and cz , a = 3

, b= 6

The figure also shows for the next chapter: k = circle of curvature, eva = evolute

curve of c, evaz = [eva O] ∩ (z = −1).

Absolute polarity on the sphere 231

Let

sin2 a−sin 2 b

m= sin a cos a

(4.1)

sin 2 b−sin2 a

n= sin b cos b

Then we get the evolutic cone of c as

x 23 y 23 2

[O eva] ... + = z3 (4.2)

m n

23 23

evaz ... x

m + =1

y

n

(4.3)

AND z = ±1

evaz · · · x = m cos3 T

y = n sin3 T (4.4)

z = ±1

p

eva · · · R = m2 cos6 T + n2 sin6 T + 1

x= m 3

R cos T

n 3 (4.5)

y = R sin T

1

z = ±R

(4.1) shows that we have the chance to find a nontrivial equilateral spherical evolute

curve, the condition is

π

a+b= . (4.6)

2

An equilateral evolute curve of an ellipsis cannot appear in EUKLIDean geometry!

The case (4.6) and all facts of Section 4 are shown in Figure 3.3.

232 H. Dirnböck

element P ∗ with t∗ , c is transformed into c∗ .

c has a and b due to 3.,

π π

c∗ has a∗ = − a, b∗ = − b (5.1)

2 2

as new spherical half lengths of the axes.

_

The distance P t∗ = π2 and n = [P t∗ ] rolls on eva, while P and t∗ draw the

paths c and c∗ , while t and P ∗ envelop c and c∗ ; c and c∗ are equidistant curves. c

and c∗ have the same evolute curve eva.

Absolute polarity on the sphere 233

Figure 5.2. As in Figure 5.1, we can additionally see the octant P t∗ n∗ and the

path eva∗ .

We can absolutely polarize eva and we get eva∗ . The points P t∗ n∗ form a

spherical octant: the three angles have π2 , the three edges have π2 .

When n is rolling on eva, n∗ draws the path eva∗ .

In the language of spherical kinematic geometry: eva is the fixed polhode, n is the

moving polhode of this spherical motion.

234 H. Dirnböck

A didactical trick: we begin with c∗ . The spherical conic c∗ has the well-known foci

F1∗ and F2∗. c∗ has the well-known properties

_

F1∗t∗ = r1∗

_

∗ ∗

F2 t ∗

= r2 (6.1)

∗ ∗ ∗

r1 + r2 = 2b

t∗ is a point of c∗ .

The supplements of these distances are

r1H∗ = π − r1∗

(6.2)

r2H∗ = π − r2∗

(6.1) looks like an ellipsis, but if we substitute one of the terms (6.2), it looks like a

hyperbola; in fact, there exists only one kind of a spherical conic. The tangent line

P ∗ in t∗ bisects the angle between r1∗ and r2H∗ ;

Now let us use Figure 6.1 and let us polarize these facts step by step!

P ◦ c∗ = c

P ◦ (point t∗ of c∗ ) = tangent line t of c

P ◦ (tangent line P ∗ of c∗ ) = point P of c

P ◦ F1∗ = F1 = “focus line” of c

P ◦ F2∗ = F2 = “focus line” of c

[F1∗ t∗ ] = line v1∗

[F2∗ t∗ ] = line v2∗

P◦ line v1∗ = point v1

P◦ line v2∗ = point v2

Absolute polarity on the sphere 235

_

P ∈ c, P bisects the distance v1 v2 on t,

_

distance W F1∗ = e∗ ,

_

distance W F2∗ = e∗ ,

_

P◦ W F1∗ = angle e∗ ,

_

P◦ W F2∗ = angle e∗ ,

spherical triangle v1 v2 U : the angle in U = π − 2e∗ = constant,

_

P◦ F1∗ t∗ = angle r1∗ ,

_

P◦ F2∗ t∗ = angle r2∗ ,

angle r1∗ + angle r2∗ + angle π − 2e∗ = constant.

236 H. Dirnböck

Further:

In t∗ we have angles σ = σ. (6.3),

Therefore, on t we have distances

σ = σ.

_

P bisects the distance v1 v2 (6.5).

Annotation: An EUKLIDean hyperbola xy = 1 has analogous properties as

(6.4) and (6.5).

7. Loxodrome

Absolute polarity on the sphere 237

π

ians of a globe; let this angle be denoted as 2 − θ,

k = tan θ (7.1)

dP

k= (7.2)

dL cos P

we integrate and get

P π

ln tan + = k(L − LD) (7.3)

2 4

For our task we always let LD = 0, then we have

P π

ln tan 2 + 4

the loxodrome 3 U...L = ··· q (7.4)

k

1

The arclength is easy: s|P

0 = ·P (7.5)

sin θ

In CARTESian coordinates we have

cos L

Ch (kL)

~ =

Q=X sin L

··· q (7.6)

Ch (kL)

Th (kL)

when derivating with respect to s, we write “ 0 ”.

Useful are the following vectors:

1 −Ch (kL) sin L−Sh (kL)k cos L

√

1+k 2 Ch (kL)

X =

~0

√ 1

1+k 2

Ch (kL) cos L−Sh (kL)k sin L

Ch (kL)

(7.7)

√ 1 k

1+k 2 Ch (kL)

−Ch2 (kL) cos L+Sh (kL)Ch (kL)k sin L−k 2 cos L

(1+k 2 )Ch (kL)

~ 00 =

X

−Ch2 (kL) sin L−Sh (kL)Ch (kL)k cos L−k 2 sin L

(7.8)

(1+k 2 )Ch (kL)

2

−k Sh (kL)

(1+k 2 )Ch (kL)

X (7.9)

e

(7.7) × (7.9) is the unit vector orthogonal to (7.7) and orthogonal to (7.9), it is

√ 2k sin L2

k +Ch (kL)

~be = X

~0 ×X ~ e00 = √ −k cos L

(8.1)

k2+Ch2 (kL)

Ch (kL)

√ 2 2k +Ch (kL)

238 H. Dirnböck

s

also it is the representation of the spherical center of curvature M1,2 ; while L is

variable, it represents the evolute curve e1,2 of q. The + sign gives es1 , the − sign

s

ψ = spherical radius of curvature1 of q,

π − ψ = spherical radius of curvature2 of q,

Sh (kL)

cos ψ = q (8.2)

k2 + Ch2 (kL)

Absolute polarity on the sphere 239

9. Spherical tractrix f

Now we polarize q. We will show that we get a spherical tractrix f = P ◦ q. We

polarize F ∗ , which is the spherical tangent line of q, then we get F ∈ f:

~ 0 = (7.6) × (7.7),

F = Q×X

Ch (kL)k sin L−Sh (kL) cos L

Ch (kL)

1

−Ch (kL)k cos L−Sh (kL) sin L

F = √ (9.1)

1 + k2 Ch (kL)

1

Ch (kL)

Polarization of the elements and properties of q:

P ◦ point Q = tangent line Q∗ of f

P ◦ tangent line F ∗ = point F of f

P ◦ meridian in Q = Ä (9.2)

_

\F ∗ =

P ◦ (angle meridian π

− θ) = distance ÄF = π

−θ

2 2

asymptotic line of f. See Figure 9.1, sometimes Figure 7.1.

240 H. Dirnböck

10. Path h

The last step: we polarize es1,2 . The result is the path h:

h = P ◦ es1,2

n = tangent line of es1,2 = [Q F ]

H = P◦n

H = Q × F = (7.6) × (9.1) = −X ~0 (7.7)

See Figure 9.1.

Q F H form a spherical octant with three angles of π2 and three edges of π2 . n =

[Q F ] rolls along the evolute curve es1,2 .

Q draws the loxodrome q,

F draws the tractrix f,

H draws the path h.

es1,2 has two special evolvent curves q and f, they are equidistant curves from each

other, the distance is π2 . See Figure 9.1.

References

[1] H. Dirnböck, Die Syntrepenz zweier Loxodromen auf der Kugel (Syntrepence

of two loxodromes on the sphere), paper for a lecture, Austrian Geometry

Congress, April 27–May 2, 1992., Schloss Seggauberg, A-8430 Leibnitz.

[2] R. Sigl, Ebene und sphärische Trigonometrie, Akademische Verlagsge-

sellschaft, Frankfurt am Main, 1969.

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