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Uploaded by Harvey Ryan Johnson

Circular billiards was used as an entry point for students to discover the generalized inscribed angle theorem.
Inspired by Henri Picciotto's Lab 1.9 on page 18 (PDF: http://www.mathedpage.org/geometry-labs/index.html) on the generalized inscribed angle theorem and N. Chernov and R. Markarian's “Chaotic Billiards,” Preview available at: http://www.ams.org/bookstore/pspdf/surv-127-prev.pdf.

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**1. Consider the game of billiards. Suppose that the game is played with one ball
**

on a circular surface instead of a rectangular one. Given that the ball is placed

at a starting point on the edge of the table:

(a) Imagine that the ball bounces off of two and only two walls before returning to the original point. What is the measure of the angles that characterize the closed figure polygon which represents a trace of the ball’s

path?

**(b) Imagine that the ball bounces off of three and only three walls before
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returning to the original point. What is the measure of the angles that

characterize the closed figure polygon which represents a trace of the ball’s

path?

(a) regular polygons

(b) collision angle ψ

**Figure 1: Billiards in a circle
**

(c) Fill out the table to find a mathematical relationship between the number

of walls struck, n, the angle, θ, from parts (a) and (b) and the angle the

ball’s path makes with the wall, ψ:

Walls

(n)

1

2

3

Inner

Collision

angle (θ) angle (ψ)

x

(d) What is a choice you could make for θ that ensures you never return to

the starting point? Can you find another?

**(e) Reflect! How did you decide about how a ball should bounce off a circular
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wall?

(f) Restate the inscribed angle theorem.

**(g) What central angle corresponds to the intercepted arc defined by ψ. Does
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the inscribed angle theorem apply to this situation?

**(h) For paths with a large or infinite number of collisions before returning to
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the original position, make a sketch for the ball’s path. Compare your

sketch with your neighbor’s. What questions do you want to ask next?

References

N. Chernov and R. Markarian, “Chaotic Billiards,” Mathematical Surveys and Monographs, 127, AMS, Providence, RI, 2006. Preview available at: http://www.ams.

org/bookstore/pspdf/surv-127-prev.pdf