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Hyperbolic Geometry


Hyperbolic Geometry Tiffany Choi Stuyvesant High School

Hyperbolic Geometry Throughout elementary school, my math teachers forced me to memorize facts such as the three angles of a triangle adding up to 180°. I also learned about Euclid’s fifth postulate, which states that through a given line and a point not on that line, one and only one line can be


drawn through that point parallel to the given line. However, after opening up a geometry book, I realized that my perception of mathematics was not complete. I discovered a new topic that I never came across before, and that was the topic Non-Euclidean geometry. In hyperbolic geometry, a type of Non-Euclidean geometry, the sum of the interior angles of a triangle can equal 170°. Infinite parallel lines exist, because they never intersect. Hyperbolic geometry is one topic in non-Euclidean geometry that provides an interesting and new perspective of looking at geometry. When Non-Euclidean geometry was initially introduced, many people refuted these new ideas. The first person to be condemned for this wistful thinking was the Russian mathematician Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky (1792-1856), sometimes called “the Copernicus of Geometry.” He worked to show that geometries can vastly differ from that of Euclid’s, since he was perplexed with Euclid’s fifth postulate. The fifth postulate or the parallel postulate states, If a transversal (line) falls on two lines in such a way that the interior angles on one side of the transversal are less than two right angles, then the lines meet on that side on which the angles are less than two right angles. Many mathematicians tried to show that this postulate was correct; however, it has always resulted in failures. When mathematicians took a closer look, they discovered that each one of those proofs required that the fifth postulate to be true in order to be proved. Logically, these were not considered proofs because one cannot prove a statement true while using the statement itself to prove the proof. In order to understand Lobachevsky’s idea, we need to rephrase the fifth postulate as follows:

Hyperbolic Geometry Given a line, l, and a point, P, not on l, it is possible to construct exactly one line that passes through P and is parallel to l.


Lobachesky wrote an alternative solution to the fifth postulate,


which goes as follows:

Given a line, l, and a point, P, not on l, there exist at least two straight lines passing through P and parallel to l.

Figure 1 Lobachevsky’s alternative to the fifth postulate.

This alternative postulate is shown in Figure 1. As you can see, line 1 and line 2 do not intersect line l, so they are both parallel with line l. This marked the beginning of non-Euclidean geometry. In hyperbolic geometry, the sum of the interior angles of a triangle is always less than 180°. This geometry is not mathematically incorrect, because the hyperbolic triangle is viewed upon from a different perspective. In hyperbolic geometry, the infinite plane is curved. In this case, the originally straight lines are curved. Therefore, the sum of the interior angles in a triangle is less than 180°. The amount less than 180° is called the defect. In hyperbolic geometry, every triangle has a positive defect. However, in Euclidean geometry, every
Figure 2 Hyperbolic Triangle.

triangle has a defect of zero. The angle sum does not have a defined number of degrees for each hyperbolic triangle, so all

the angles have different measures. Figure 2 is an example of a hyperbolic triangle. There are two major differences between hyperbolic triangles and Euclidean triangles. One distinction is while the sides of hyperbolic triangles approach the end of the plane, the angle sum of any triangle gets lesser and lesser than 180°. The second is that there is no such thing as similar triangles. If two triangles have the same angles, then they are congruent. Since this is true, in 1794, Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) discovered the formula for the hyperbolic triangle:

Hyperbolic Geometry


area (△ ABC ) = ( )idefect (△ ABC ) . Therefore, the area is proportional to the defect. Since the 180 angle sum can never be less than 0°, the defect can never go below 180°. Thus, the area of the hyperbolic triangle ABC is area = π − (∠A + ∠B + ∠C ) . As mentioned before, parallel lines are infinite lines on the same plane that do not intersect. In Figure 3, the hyperbolic lines AB and BC represent infinite lines on the
same plane that intersect at the point B, so they are not parallel to each other. However, DE and AB never intersect, so DE is parallel to AB . Using similar logic,
DE is parallel to BC . However, in Euclidean geometry, the
Figure 3 Hyperbolic lines.


following postulate, the transitive property of parallelism, is true: If two lines are parallel to a third line, then the two lines are parallel to each other. Although this is true in Euclidean geometry, it is not in hyperbolic geometry. Both AB and BC are parallel to DE , but AB is not parallel to BC . This shows that a hyperbolic line is not the same as a Euclidean line. However, both of these lines do share some of the same properties. In Euclidean geometry, there is one and only one path between any two points. Also, when you are given two points, there can only be one line that passes through these points. Just like these lines have the same properties, they also have differing properties. These properties are true in Euclidean geometry, but false in hyperbolic. If two lines are parallel, then the two lines are

Hyperbolic Geometry equidistant. Furthermore, lines that do not have an end or infinite lines also do not have a boundary. After you reviewed these properties of the Euclidean and hyperbolic lines, we can talk about the hyperbolic triangle. We can assure that the hyperbolic triangle does not equal to 180°. First, we start off with the
Figure 4 Proof that interior angles are equal to 180° in Euclidean Geometry. °


proof that proved that the sum of the interior angles of a Euclidean triangle equals to 180°. In Figure 4, two parallel lines are cut by a transversal, so the alternate interior angles are equal ( ∠ AB ≅ ∠ABC and ∠MAC ≅ ∠ACB ). The sum of the interior angles of the triangle, therefore, equals ∠BA + ∠BAC + ∠CAM . These angles taken together form the straight angle NAM. However, in hyperbolic geometry, there are infinite numbers of lines that are parallel to BC and pass through point A, but there is no line that shows that

∠ AB ≅ ∠ABC and ∠MAC ≅ ∠ACB . Therefore, the proof
that proves the sum of the interior angles in a Euclidean

triangle equals 180° is refuted. To formally prove that the sum of angles of any triangle is less than two right angles or 180°, we need to consider the following: the triangle cannot have

Figure 5


two angles that are right or obtuse or in other words, at least two of the three angles must be acute. The proof below refers to Figure 5. It will prove that the angle-sum of the ∆ABC is less than 180°.

Statements 1. ∆ ABC, Acute angles A and B, Points I and J are midpoints


Hyperbolic Geometry of BC and AC , Draw AD , BE , and CF ⊥ IJ 2. ∠ADJ and ∠CFJ are right angles. 3. ∠ADJ ≅ ∠CFJ 4. AJ ≅ CJ 5. Right ∆ ADJ and ∆ CFJ are congruent. 6. 7. If a line to perpendicular to another line, then they form right angles. Right angles are congruent. When a midpoint divides a line segment, it breaks it into two congruent parts. Hypotenuse Leg Theorem. Congruent parts of congruent triangles are congruent. Congruent parts of congruent triangles are congruent. Substitution Postulate.


AD ≅ CF ≅ BE

∠ACB ≅ ∠JCF + ∠FCI

≅ ∠JAD + ∠EBI ∠BAC + ∠ACB + ∠CBA 8. ≅ ∠BAJ + ∠JAD + ∠EBI +∠IBA ≅ ∠BAD + ∠EBA

In hyperbolic geometry, rectangles and squares do not exist. However, there are two polygons that are similar to rectangles: the Saccheri and Lambert Quadrilateral. Just like how a hyperbolic triangle has interior angles less than 180°, a hyperbolic quadrilateral has interior angles less than 360°. Girolamo Saccheri (1667-1733) discovered the Saccheri Quadrilateral. In this quadrilateral, two of the angles are 90° or right angles,

and the other two are acute angles or summit angles. Two opposite sides are congruent and the two adjacent angles on the base of the figure are right angles. We can prove that

this is true by proving that AB ⊥ EF and CD ⊥ EF . The following proof is based on Figure 6.

Figure 6 The Saccheri Quadrilateral

1. ▭ ABCD, Point E and F are Given.


Hyperbolic Geometry midpoints of AB and CD , Draw
AF and BF .


2. AE ≅ BE , DF ≅ CF 3. EF ≅ EF 4. ∆ADF = ∆BCF 5. AF ≅ BF , ∠AFD ≅ ∠BFC 6. ∆AEF = ∆BEF 7. ∠AEF ≅ ∠BEF , ∠AFE ≅ ∠BFE 8. ∠EFD ≅ ∠EFC 9. AB ⊥ EF , CD ⊥ EF

When a midpoint divides a line segment, it breaks it into two congruent parts. Reflexive Postulate. SAS Postulate. Congruent parts of congruent triangles are congruent. SSS Postulate. Congruent parts of congruent triangles are congruent. Addition Property. If two lines form adjacent congruent angles, then they are perpendicular.

In the Lambert Quadrilateral, three angles of the quadrilateral are right angles. When this is the case, the fourth angle is acute. The discovery of the Lambert quadrilateral is credited to Johann Lambert (1728 – 1777), who made an indirect argument for this quadrilateral. As you can see in Figure 7, AD is greater than BC and

CD is greater than AB .

Figure 7 The Lambert Quadrilateral

The following seven points gives a brief overview of hyperbolic geometry: 1. Given a line l and a point P not on l , there are at least two distinct lines through P parallel to l . 2. Every triangle has angle sum less than 180°. 3. If two triangles are similar, then the triangles are congruent. 4. There exist an infinite number of lines through a given point P parallel to a given line l . 5. In the Saccheri quadrilateral, the summit angles are congruent and less than 90°.

Hyperbolic Geometry 6. In the Lambert quadrilateral, the fourth angle is less than 90°. 7. Rectangles do not exist.


After writing this research paper, I had many questions have arisen to my mind. One question that remains ambiguous is “what exactly is a hyperbolic plane?” However, to answer this question, one is forced to think abstractly, as opposed to geometrically. After learning about hyperbolic geometry, I was able to discover the world of abstract topics. Yet, there are many more concepts in hyperbolic geometry to explore. What will happen if the triangle has one obtuse angle? Is that even possible? Maybe one day we will wake up and find the normally straight fence curved or find out that walking on the walls without falling is possible. Who knows if the world will become hyperbolic; as there are countless possibilities and connections with the earth and hyperbolic geometry.

Hyperbolic Geometry References


Cannon, James W., Floyd, William J., Kenyon, Richard., & Parry, Walter R. (1997). Hyperbolic Geometry. Cambridge: MSRI Publications. Castellanos, Joel. (May 22, 2007). NonEuclid – Hyperbolic Geometry Article & Applet. Retrieved June 1, 2008, from Cheong, Jensen. (2007). Hyperbolic Geometry. New York: Stuyvesant High School. Cherowitzo, Bill. (November 29, 1999). Lecture Notes 6. Retrieved June 1, 2008, from Coxeter, H. S. M. (1942). Mathematical Expositions 2. Canada: University of Toronto Press. Iversen, Birger. (1992). Hyperbolic Geometry. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. Rosien, Adam S. (November 5, 1997). Java Gallery: Hyperbolic Triangles. Retrieved June 8, 2008, from Shepherd-Barron, Nick. (February, 8, 2001). The Difficulty of Hyperbolic Geometry. Retrieved June 2, 2008, from Smart, James R. (1998). Modern Geometries. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. Sved, Marta. (1997). Journey into Geometries. USA: The Mathematical Association of America. Tabak, John. (2004). The History Of Mathematics. New York: Facts on File.