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You are on page 1of 10

HANDBOOK Pages 101- 102

In solving problems for dimensions or angles, it is often conve-

nient to work with oblique triangles. In an oblique triangle, none of

the angles is a right angle. One of the angles may be over 90

degrees, or each of the three angles may be less than 90 degrees.

Any oblique triangle may be solved by constructing perpendiculars

to the sides from appropriate vertices, thus forming right triangles.

The methods, previously explained, for solving right triangles, will

then solve the oblique triangles. The objection to this method of

solving oblique triangles is that it is a long, tedious process.

Two of the examples in the Handbook on page 101, which arc

solved by the formulas for oblique triangles, will be solved by the

right-angle triangle method. These triangles have been solved to

show that all oblique triangles can be solved thus and to give an

opportunity to compare the two methods. There are four classes of

oblique triangles:

1) Given one side and two angles

2) Given two sides and the included angle

3) Given two sides and the angle opposite one of them

4) Given the three sides

Example 1:Solve the first example on Handbook page 101 by the

right-angle triangle method. By referring to the accompanying Fig.

1:

Angle C = 180° – ( 62° + 80° ) = 38°

Draw a line DC perpendicular to AB.

In the right triangle BDC, DC/BC = sin 62°.

DC

-------- = 0.88295; DC = 5 × 0.88295 = 4.41475

5

81

82 OBLIQUE TRIANGLES

Triangle Method

Angle BCD = 90° − 62° = 28°; DCA =38° − 28° =10°

BD

-------- = cos 62°; BD = 5 × 0.46947 = 2.34735

5

In triangle ADC, AC/DC = sec 10°.

AC = 4.41475 × 1.0154 = 4.4827

AD

------------------- = tan 10°; AD = 4.41475 × 0.17633 = 0.7785

4.41475

and AB = AD + BD = 0.7785 + 2.34735 = 3.1258

C = 38°; b = 4.4827; c = 3.1258

Example 2:Apply the right-angle triangle method to the solution

of the second example on Handbook page 101.

Referring to Fig. 2, draw a line BD perpendicular to CA.

In the right triangle BDC, BD/9 = sin 35°.

BD = 9 × 0.57358 = 5.16222

CD

-------- = cos 35°; CD = 9 × 0.81915 = 7.37235

9

DA = 8 – 7.37235 = 0.62765

-------- = 5.16222

------------------- = tan A .

DA 0.62765

OBLIQUE TRIANGLES 83

B = 180° – ( 83°4′ + 35° ) = 61°56′

BA- = ---------------

BA - = csc 83°4′; BA = 5.1622 × 1.0074

-------

BD 5.1622

= 5.2004

BA = 5.1622 × 1.0074 = 5.2004

A = 83°4′ ; B = 61°56′ ; C = 35°

a = 9 ; b = 8 ; c = 5.2004

of an Oblique Triangle Equation

Use of Formulas for Oblique Triangles.—Oblique triangles are

not encountered as frequently as right triangles, and, therefore, the

methods of solving the latter may be fresh in the memory whereas

methods for solving the former may be forgotten. All the formulas

involved in the solution of the four classes of oblique triangles are

derived from: (1) the law of sines; (2) the law of cosines; and (3)

the sum of angles of a triangle equal 180°.

The law of sines is that, in any triangle, the lengths of the sides

are proportional to the sines of the opposite angles. (See diagrams

on Handbook page 101.)

a - = ----------

b - = -----------

c

---------- (1)

sin A sin B sin C

Solving this equation, we get:

84 OBLIQUE TRIANGLES

a b

----------- = ----------- ; then a × sinB = b × sinA and

sin A sin B

b × sin A b × sin A

a = -------------------- ; sin B = --------------------

sin B a

a × sin B a × sin B

b = -------------------- ; sin A = --------------------

sin A b

a

In like manner, ---------- c

- = ----------- and

sin A sin C

a × sin C-

a × sinC = c ×Sin A; hence sin A = --------------------

c

b c

- = ----------- or b × sin C = c × sin B

and ----------

sin B sin C

Thus, twelve formulas may be derived. As a general rule, only

Formula (1) is remembered, and special formulas are derived

from it as required.

The law of cosines states that, in any triangle, the square of any

side equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides minus

twice their product multiplied by the cosine of the angle between

them. These relations are stated as formulas thus:

2 2 2

a = b + c – 2bc × cos A or

(1)

2 2

a = b + c – 2bc × cos A

2 2 2

b = a + c – 2ac × cos B or

(2)

2 2

b = a + c – 2ac × cos B

2 2 2

c = a + b – 2ab × cos C or

(3)

2 2

c = a + b – 2ab × cos C

2 2 2

By solving (1), a = b + c – 2bc × cos A for cos A,

2 2 2

2bc × cos A = b + c – a (transposing)

OBLIQUE TRIANGLES 85

2 2 2

b + c – a-

cos A = ----------------------------

2bc

In like manner, formulas for cos B and cos C may be found.

Example 3:A problem quite often encountered in layout work is

illustrated in Fig. 3. It is required to find the dimensions x and y

between the holes, these dimensions being measured from the

intersection of the perpendicular line with the center line of the two

lower holes. The three center-to-center distances are the only

known values.

The method that might first suggest itself is to find the angle A

(or B) by some such formulas as:

2 2 2

b + c – a-

cos A = ----------------------------

2bc

and then solve the right triangle for y by the formula

y = b cos A

Formula (1) and (2) can be combined as follows:

2 2 2

y = b----------------------------

+ c – a-

2c

86 OBLIQUE TRIANGLES

The second solution of this problem involves the following geo-

metrical proposition: In any oblique triangle where the three sides

are known, the ratio of the length of the base to the sum of the

other two sides equals the ratio of the difference between the

length of the two sides to the difference between the lengths x and

y. Therefore, if a = 14, b = 12, and c = 16 inches, then

c: ( a + b ) = ( a – b ): ( x – y )

16:26 = 2: ( x – y )

26 × 2

( x – y ) = --------------- = 3 1⁄4 inches

16

(x + y) + (x – y) 16 + 3 1⁄

x = --------------------------------------- = -------------------4 = 9.625 inches

2 2

( x + y ) – ( x – y -) = 16 – 3 1⁄4- = 6.375 inches

y = ------------------------------------- ------------------

2 2

When Angles Have Negative Values.—In the solution of oblique

triangles having one angle larger than 90 degrees, it is sometimes

necessary to use angles whose functions are negative. (Review

Handbook pages 4 and 106.) Notice that for angles between 90

degrees and 180 degrees, the cosine, tangent, cotangent, and secant

are negative.

Example 4:By referring to Fig. 4, two sides and the angle

between them are shown. Find angles A and B. (See Handbook

page 101.)

4 × sin 20° - = -------------------------------------

4 × 0.34202 = ---------------------------

1.36808 -

tan A = -----------------------------------

3 – 4 × cos 20° 3 – 4 × 0.93969 3 – 3.75876

It will be seen that in the denominator of the fraction above, the

number to be subtracted from 3 is greater than 3; the numbers are

therefore reversed, 3 being subtracted from 3.75876, the remainder

then being negative. Hence:

1.36808 1.36808

tan A = ---------------------------

- = ---------------------- = – 1.80305

3 – 3.75876 – 0.75876

The final result is negative because a positive number (1.36808)

is divided by a negative number (−0.75876). The tangents of

OBLIQUE TRIANGLES 87

angles greater than 90 degrees and smaller than 180 degrees are

negative. To illustrate an angle whose tangent is negative, enter the

value −1.80305 in the calculator and find the corresponding angle,

which −60.986558 degrees, or −60 degrees, 59 minutes, 59 sec-

onds. Because the tangent is negative, angle A must be subtracted

from 180 degrees, giving 119.01344 degrees, or 119 degrees, 0

minutes, 49 seconds as the angle. Now angle B is found from the

formula,

B = 180° – ( A + C ) = 180° – ( 119°0′11″ + 20° )

= 180° – 139°0′11″ = 40°59′49″

When Either of Two Triangles Conforms to the Given Dimen-

sions.—When two sides and the angle opposite one of the given

sides are known, if the side opposite the given angle is shorter than

the other given side, two triangles can be drawn, having sides of

the required length (as shown by Fig. 5) and the required angle

opposite one of the sides. The lengths of the two known sides of

each triangle are 8 and 9 inches, and the angle opposite the 8-inch

side is 49 degrees, 27 minutes in each triangle; but it will be seen

that the angle B of the lower triangle is very much larger than the

corresponding angle of the upper triangle, and there is a great dif-

ference in the area. When two sides and one of the opposite angles

are given, the problem is capable of two solutions when (and only

when) the side opposite the given angle is shorter than the other

given side. When the triangle to be calculated is drawn to scale, it

88 OBLIQUE TRIANGLES

two solutions applies.

Problem, Which Is to Find Angle B

Example 5:Find angle B, Fig. 5, from the formula, sinB = (b ×

sinA)/a, where b = 9 inches; A = 49 degrees, 27 minutes; a is the

side opposite angle A = 8 inches.

SinB = 9 × 0.75984/8 = 0.85482 = sin 58°44′34″ or sin B =

121°15′36″. The practical requirements of the problem doubtless

will indicate which of the two triangles shown in Fig. 5 is the cor-

rect one.

EXERCISES 89

Example 6:In Fig. 6, a = 2 inches, b = 3 inches, and A = 30

degrees. Find B.

× sin A = ---------------

sin B = b-------------------- sin 30°- = 0.75000

a 2

We find from the calculator that sine 0.75000 is the sine of

48°35′. From Fig. 6 it is apparent, however, that B is greater than

90 degrees, and as 0.75000 is the sine not only of 48°35′, but also

of 180° − 48°35′ = 131°25′, angle B in this triangle equals 131°25′.

This example illustrates how the practical requirements of the

problem indicate which of two angles is correct.

(See Answers to Practice Exercises For Section 10 on page 229)

1) Three holes in a jig are located as follows:

Hole No. 1 is 3.375 inches from hole No. 2 and 5.625 inches from

hole No. 3; the distance between No. 2 and No. 3 is 6.250 inches.

What three angles between the center lines are thus formed?

2) In Fig. 7 is shown a triangle one side of which is 6.5 feet, and

the two angles A and C are 78 and 73 degrees, respectively. Find

angle B, sides b and c, and the area.

3) In Fig. 8, side a equals 3.2 inches, angle A, 118 degrees, and

angle B, 40 degrees. Find angle C, sides b and c, and the area.

4) In Fig. 9, side b = 0.3 foot, angle B = 35°40′, and angle C =

24°10′. Find angle A, sides a and c, and the area.

5) Give two general rules for finding the areas of triangles.

90 EXERCISES

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