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# Finding the curvature of a curve using velocity and acceleration

Given a curve defined parametrically according to a position vector, ~r = ~r(t) and the velocity is defined in the usual way, ~v (t) =

~
d T
κ =

ds
where T~ =

~
v
k~
vk

is the unit tangent vector to the curve and s is the arclength parameter given by:
r
ds =

dx 2 dy 2
+
dt = k~v kdt
dt
dt

Using the chain rule we can write:

~ ~
dT dT dt dT~ 1
κ =
=
=

ds dt ds dt k~v k
Next we see:

dT~
d
=
dt
dt 

~v
k~v k 

Using the product rule we write:
d
kvk
~ak~v k − ~v dt
dT~
=
2
dt
k~v k

Aside: time derivative of the speed
d
d
d
(~v · ~v ) = (k~v k2 ) = 2k~v k k~v k
dt
dt
dt
Moreover:

Therefore:

d
(~v · ~v ) = ~a · ~v + ~v · ~a = 2~a · ~v
dt
d
~v
k~v k = ~a ·
dt
k~v k

~ak~v k − ~v (~a ·
dT~
=
dt
k~v k2

~
v
)
k~
vk

s
~
~ak~v k − ~v (~a · k~~vvk ) ~ak~v k − ~v (~a · k~~vvk )
dT
·

=
dt
k~v k2
k~v k2
s

~
~v
1
~v
dT
(~ak~v k − ~v (~a ·
)) · (~ak~v k − ~v (~a ·
))

=
dt
k~v k2
k~v k
k~v k

~
1 p
dT
k~ak2 k~v k2 − 2k~v k2 k~ak2 cos2 θ + k~v k2 k~ak2 cos2 θ

=
dt
k~v k2

d~
r
.
dt

The curvature is defined as:

~
k~akk~v k p
dT
1 − cos2 θ
=

dt
k~v k2

~
k~akk~v k p 2
d T
sin θ

=
dt
k~v k2

~
k~akk~v k
d T
sin θ
=

dt
k~v k2

~
k~a × ~v k
d T

=
dt
k~v k2
Finally:

~

dT 1
κ =

dt k~v k
κ=

k~a × ~v k
k~v k3

A challenge question — Can we find the curvature of a curve without using a parameter?
Is there a natural way to describe the curvature of a function without using the parametric form? For example, suppose a curve is the consequence of the intersection of three volumes
defined using an extended Cartesian system with four coordinates: x, y, z, w. So, w = w1 (x, y, z) = w2 (x, y, z) = w3 (x, y, z), and we wish to know the curvature at (x, y, z). This is a
well-defined question with no reference to a parameter, t. It is natural to wonder whether there is a way to find curvature without imposing a new parameter.