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Archimedes' Spiral
The limaçon is a polar curve of the form ,

Archimedes' spiral is an Archimedean spiral with polar equation
also called the limaçon of Pascal.The word "limaçon" comes from the Latin limax, meaning "snail."

If , the limaçon is convex. If This spiral was studied by Conon, and later by Archimedes in On Spirals
, the limaçon is dimpled. If about 225 BC. Archimedes was able to work out the lengths of various
tangents to the spiral.
, the limaçon degenerates to a
cardioid. If , the limaçon has an
inner loop. If , it is a trisectrix
(but not the Maclaurin trisectrix).
The curvature of Archimedes' spiral is

For , the inner loop has area

and the arc length is

where . Similarly the area enclosed by the outer envelope is

Hyperbolic Spiral

An Archimedean spiral with polar equation

The hyperbolic spiral, also called the inverse spiral (Whittaker 1944,
p. 83), originated with Pierre Varignon in 1704 and was studied by Johann
Bernoulli between 1710 and 1713, as well as by Cotes in 1722 (MacTutor

Thus, the area between the loops is
It is also a special case of a Cotes' spiral, i.e., the path followed by a
particle in a central orbit with power law

In the special case of , these simplify to
when is a constant and is the specific angular momentum.
The curvature and tangential angle are given by

The logarithmic spiral can be constructed from equally spaced rays by starting at a point along one
Fermat's Spiral ray, and drawing the perpendicular to a neighboring ray. As the number of rays approached infinity,
the sequence of segments approaches the smooth logarithmic spiral (Hilton et al. 1997, pp. 2-3).

The logarithmic spiral was first studied by Descartes in 1638 and Jakob Bernoulli. Bernoulli was so
Fermat's spiral, also known as the parabolic fascinated by the spiral that he had one engraved on his tombstone (although the engraver did not
spiral, is an Archimedean spiral with draw it true to form) together with the words "eadem mutata resurgo" ("I shall arise the same though
changed"). Torricelli worked on it independently and found the length of the curve (MacTutor
having polar equation Archive).

The rate of change of radius is

This curve was discussed by Fermat in 1636. For any given positive value of , there are two
corresponding values of of opposite signs. The left plot above shows

and the angle between the tangent and radial line at the point is

only, while the right plot shows equation (1) in red and

in blue. Taking both signs, the resulting spiral is symmetrical about the origin.
So, as , and the spiral approaches a circle.
Logarithmic Spiral
If is any point on the spiral, then the length of the spiral from to the origin is finite. In fact, from
the point which is at distance from the origin measured along a radius vector, the distance from
to the pole along the spiral is just the arc length. In addition, any radius from the origin meets the
The logarithmic spiral is a spiral whose polar equation is spiral at distances which are in geometric progression (MacTutor Archive).
given by where is the distance from the origin,
is the angle from the x-axis, and and are arbitrary The arc length (as measured from the origin, ), curvature, and tangential angle of the
constants. The logarithmic spiral is also known as the growth logarithmic spiral are given by
spiral, equiangular spiral, and spira mirabilis. It can be
expressed parametrically as

This spiral is related to Fibonacci numbers, the golden ratio, and golden rectangles, and is
sometimes called the golden spiral.

Conchoid of Nicomedes

Conchoid of de Sluze
curve with polar coordinates, , studied by the Greek mathematician Nicomedes in
about 200 BC, also known as the cochloid. It is the locus of points a fixed distance away from a line
as measured along a line from the focus point. Nicomedes recognized the three distinct forms seen
in this family for , , and . (For , it obviously degenerates to a
circle.) The conchoid of de
Sluze is the cubic
curve first
The conchoid of Nicomedes was a favorite with 17th century mathematicians and could be used constructed by René
to solve the problems of cube duplication, angle trisection, heptagon construction, and other de Sluze in 1662. It
Neusis constructions (Johnson 1975). is given by the
implicit equation
In Cartesian coordinates, the conchoid of Nicomedes may be written


or the polar equation

The conchoid has as an asymptote, and the area between either branch and the asymptote is
This can be written in parametric form as

A conchoid with has a loop for , where , giving

The conchoid of de Sluze has a singular point at the origin which is a crunode for , a cusp
for , and an acnode for .

It has curvature and tangential angle

The curve has a loop if , in which case the loop is swept out by

. The area of the loop is

The curvature and tangential angle are given by

The cycloid is the locus of a point on the rim of a circle of radius rolling along a straight line. It was For the first hump,
studied and named by Galileo in 1599. Galileo attempted to find the area by weighing pieces of
metal cut into the shape of the cycloid. Torricelli, Fermat, and Descartes all found the area. The
cycloid was also studied by Roberval in 1634, Wren in 1658, Huygens in 1673, and Johann Bernoulli
in 1696. Roberval and Wren found the arc length (MacTutor Archive). Gear teeth were also made
out of cycloids, as first proposed by Desargues in the 1630s.
For a single hump of the cycloid, the arc length and area under the curve are therefore
In 1696, Johann Bernoulli challenged other mathematicians to find the curve which solves the
brachistochrone problem, knowing the solution to be a cycloid. Leibniz, Newton, Jakob Bernoulli and
L'Hospital all solved Bernoulli's challenge. The cycloid also solves the tautochrone problem, as
alluded to in the following passage from Moby Dick: "[The try-pot] is also a place for profound
mathematical meditation. It was in the left-hand try-pot of the Pequod, with the soapstone diligently
circling round me, that I was first indirectly struck by the remarkable fact, that in geometry all bodies Nephroid
gliding along a cycloid, my soapstone, for example, will descend from any point in precisely the
same time" (Melville 1851). Because of the frequency with which it provoked quarrels among
The 2-cusped epicycloid is called a nephroid. The name nephroid means "kidney shaped" and was
mathematicians in the 17th century, the cycloid became known as the "Helen of Geometers" (Boyer
first used for the two-cusped epicycloid by Proctor in 1878 (MacTutor Archive).
1968, p. 389).

The nephroid is the catacaustic for rays originating at the cusp of a cardioid and reflected by it. In
The cycloid catacaustic when the rays are parallel to the y-axis is a cycloid with twice as many
addition, Huygens showed in 1678 that the nephroid is the catacaustic of a circle when the light
arches. The radial curve of a cycloid is a circle. The evolute and involute of a cycloid are identical
source is at infinity, an observation which he published in his Traité de la
luminère in 1690 (MacTutor Archive). (Trott 2004, p. 17, mistakenly states
that the catacaustic for parallel light falling on any concave mirror is a
If the cycloid has a cusp at the origin and its humps are oriented upward, its parametric equation is nephroid.)

Since the nephroid has cusps, , and the equation for in
Humps are completed at values corresponding to successive multiples of , and have height terms of the parameter is given by epicycloid equation
and length . Eliminating in the above equations gives the Cartesian equation

with ,
which is valid for and gives the first half of the first hump of the cycloid. An implicit
Cartesian equation is given by


The arc length, curvature, and tangential angle for the first hump of the cycloid are
This can be written

and plugging in to to obtain
The parametric equations are

for .
The Cartesian equation is
In Cartesian coordinates,

The nephroid has area and arc length,

A generalization of the curve to gives
"squashed" astroids, which are a special case of the superellipse
corresponding to parameter .
The arc length, curvature, and tangential angle as a function of parameter are

In pedal coordinates with the pedal point at the center, the equation is

and the Cesàro equation is
where the expressions for and are valid for .


A further generalization to an equation of the form
A 4-cusped hypocycloid which is sometimes also called a tetracuspid,
cubocycloid, or paracycle. The parametric equations of the astroid can be
obtained by plugging in or into the equations for a general
hypocycloid, giving parametric equations

is known as a superellipse.

The arc length, curvature, and tangential angle are

for .

The polar equation can be obtained by computing
with the wall and floor are and , respectively. The equation of the line made
by the ladder with its foot at is therefore

where the formula for holds for .

The perimeter of the entire astroid can be computed from the general hypocycloid formula

which can be written

with ,

The equation of the envelope is given by the simultaneous solution of
For a squashed astroid, the perimeter has length

The area is given by

which is

with ,

Noting that
The evolute of an ellipse is a stretched hypocycloid. The gradient of the tangent from the point with
parameter is . The equation of this tangent is

(MacTutor Archive). Let cut the x-axis and the y-axis at and , respectively. Then the length
is a constant and is equal to .
allows this to be written implicitly as the equation of the astroid.
The astroid can also be formed as the envelope produced when a line segment is moved with each
end on one of a pair of perpendicular axes (e.g., it is the curve enveloped by a ladder sliding against
a wall or a garage door with the top corner moving along a vertical track; left figure above). The
astroid is therefore a glissette. To see this, note that for a ladder of length , the points of contact
The related problem obtained by having the "garage
door" of length with an "extension" of length Epicycloids are given by the parametric equations
move up and down a slotted track also gives a
surprising answer. In this case, the position of the
"extended" end for the foot of the door at horizontal
position and angle is given by

A polar equation can
be derived by

Using then gives



Solving (◇) for , plugging into (◇) and squaring then gives


Rearranging produces the equation

Note that is the parameter here, not the polar angle. The polar angle from the center is

the equation of a (quadrant of an) ellipse with semimajor and
semiminor axes of lengths and .

the astroid is also the envelope of the family of ellipses

To get cusps in the epicycloid, , because then rotations of bring the point on the edge
back to its starting position.

The path traced out by a point on the edge of a circle of radius rolling on the outside of a circle of
radius . An epicycloid is therefore an epitrochoid with .
where is the radius of curvature ( ).


A 3-cusped hypocycloid, also called a tricuspoid. The deltoid was first
considered by Euler in 1745 in connection with an optical problem. It was
so also investigated by Steiner in 1856 and is sometimes called Steiner's
hypocycloid (Lockwood 1967; Coxeter and Greitzer 1967, p. 44;
MacTutor). The equation of the deltoid is obtained by setting
in the equation of the hypocycloid,
where is the radius of the large fixed circle and is the
radius of the small rolling circle, yielding the parametric

An epicycloid with one cusp is called a cardioid, one with two cusps is called a nephroid, and one
with five cusps is called a ranunculoid.

The arc length, curvature, and tangential angle are

The total arc length is computed from the general hypocycloid equation

Epicycloids can also be constructed by beginning with the diameter of a circle and offsetting one end
by a series of steps of equal arc length along the circumference while at the same time offsetting the
other end along the circumference by steps times as large. After traveling around the circle
once, the envelope of an -cusped epicycloid is produced, as illustrated above (Madachy 1979).

With , this gives
Epicycloids have torsion

and satisfy The area is given by


Call . If , then the first point is at minimum radius, and the Cartesian
The length of the tangent to the tricuspoid, measured between the two points , in which it cuts parametric equations of the hypocycloid are
the curve again, is constant and equal to . If you draw tangents at and , they are at right

Rather surprisingly, the deltoid can act as a rotor inside an astroid and, in fact, the deltoid
catacaustic is an astroid.


An epicycloid with cusps, named after the buttercup genus Ranunculus (Madachy 1979).
If instead so the first point is at maximum radius (on the circle), then the equations of the
hypocycloid are
Its parametric equations are

Its arc length and area are given by

The curvature, arc length, and tangential angle of a hypocycloid are given by

Its arc length function, curvature, and tangential angle are


The curve produced by fixed point on the circumference of a small circle of radius rolling around
the inside of a large circle of radius . A hypocycloid is therefore a hypotrochoid with . An -cusped hypocycloid has . For an integer and with , the equations
of the hypocycloid therefore become
To derive the equations of the hypocycloid, call the angle by which a point on the small circle rotates
about its center , and the angle from the center of the large circle to that of the small circle . Then
and the arc length and area are therefore

If is irrational, then the curve never closes on itself. Hypocycloids for a number of irrational
values of are illustrated above.

A 2-cusped hypocycloid is a line segment as can be seen by setting in equations (◇) and
(◇) and noting that the equations simplify to

This result was noted by the Persian astronomer and mathematician Nasir Al-Din al-Tusi (1201-
1274), and is sometimes known as a "Tusi couple" is his honor (Sotiroudis and Paschos 1999, p. 60;
Kanas 2003).

The following tables summarizes the names given to this and other hypocycloids with special integer
values of .

2 line segment (Tusi couple)
3 deltoid
4 astroid

-cusped hypocycloids can also be constructed by beginning with the diameter of a circle, offsetting
one end by a series of steps while at the same time offsetting the other end by steps times as
large in the opposite direction and extending beyond the edge of the circle. After traveling around the
circle once, an -cusped hypocycloid is produced, as illustrated above.

Let be the radial distance from a fixed point. For radius of torsion and arc length , a hypocycloid
can given by the equation
If is rational, then the curve eventually closes on itself and has cusps. Hypocycloids for a
number of rational values of are illustrated above.

A hypocycloid also satisfies
where then

and is the angle between the radius vector and the tangent to the curve.

The equation of the hypocycloid can be put in a form which is useful in the solution of calculus of
variations problems with radial symmetry. Consider the case , then The polar angle is



But , so , which gives

Now let


then gives

Finally, plugging back in gives