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Geometry

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2.1

Introduction

by a single parameter. A curve with a particular choice of parameter is called

a parameterized curve and we have in the previous chapter already seen many

examples of this concept.

In this chapter we will study local properties of abstract curves. The main result

is that a plane curve is completely determined by a single real valued function,

the curvature, and a space curve is completely determined by two real valued

functions, the curvature and torsion. A curve in Rn is completely determined by

n 1 functions, called the curvatures.

2.2

Parameterized Curves

Our study of curves will be restricted to a certain class of curves. First of all we

want to use calculus in the analysis so a curve has to be described by a differential

function1 . If the derivative of a map r V R ! Rn vanishes at some point then the

image can have sharp corner or a cusp, see Problems 2.2.1 and 2.2.2, and we want

to avoid that too. So we will only work with regular curves. Our main interest are

plane curves or space curves so in the following you may think of Rn as R2 or R3 .

Definition 2.1. A regular parametrization of class C k , with k 1, of a curve in

Rn is a vector function r V I ! Rn defined on an interval I which satisfies

T U!T U

1 Besides

the convenience of being able to use calculus there is a more severe reasons for

insisting on differentiable functions. There exists continuous maps 0; 1

0; 1 n whose image

n

is all of 0; 1 and we do not want to call them curves.

T U

39

40

1. r is of class C k .

2. r0 .t / 6 D 0 for all t

2 I.

The variable t is called the parameter and I is called the parameter interval.

Example 2.1 The function r.t / D .t ; t 2 1/, t 2 R, is a regular parametrization because

r is of class C 1 and r0 .t / D .1; 2t / 6D .0; 0/ for all t 2 R. The image of r is the parabola

shown in Figure 2.1

Example 2.2 The function r.t / D .r cos t ; r sin t ; ht /, where r; h > 0, is a regular parametrization because r is of class C 1 and jr0 .t /j2 D r 2 sin2 t C r 2 cos2 t C h 2 D r 2 C h 2 6D 0

for all t 2 R. The image of r is the right circular helix shown in Figure 2.1.

f V I1 ! I such that

1. f is of class C k .

2. f 0 .t / 6 D 0 all t

2 I1 .

f orientation preserving, or f 0 .t / < 0 for all t 2 I , in which case we call f

orientation reversing. If f V I1 ! I is an allowable change of parameter of class

C k then the condition f 0 .t / 6 D 0 implies that the inverse exists and is an allowable

change of parameter of class C k . If r V I ! Rn is a regular parameterization

of a curve and f V I1 ! I is an allowable change of parameter and both are of

class C k then r1 D r f V I1 ! Rn is of class C k too, and it satisfies r01 .t / D

r0 . f .t // f 0 .t / 6D 0, i.e., it is a regular parametrization, see Figure 2.2. We say that

r1 is a reparameterization of r, and this defines an equivalence relation on the set

of parametrizations, cf. Problem 2.2.5. We will consider a regular parametrization

of class C k and any reparametrization as defining the same curve, that is

41

r.t0 / D r1 .t1 /

r1

Dr f

f

t1

t0

r V I ! Rn of class C k any two of which are reparametrizations of each other.

An oriented regular curve in Rn is a collection of regular parametrizations r V I !

Rn of class C k any two of which are orientation preserving reparametrizations of

each other.

A regular parametrization r V I ! Rn uniquely determines a curve and all other

parametrizations are related to it by an allowable change of parameter. Thus we

may say the curve given by r.t /.... However, a property of or a concept associated with the parametrization r V I ! Rn need not be a property of the underlying

curve. Any property of or concept associated with the curve must be common to

all representations or, as we say, independent of the parameter.

A regular curve given by r V I ! Rn is said to be simple if there are no multiple

points; that is, if t1 6D t2 implies r.t1 / 6 D r.t2 /. This is clearly a property of the

curve, not of the parametrization. Locally, a regular curve is always simple, cf.

Problem 2.2.6.

If we think of the curve as the path of a moving particle then r0 .t0 / is the velocity

of the particle at time t D t0 .

at t D t0 is the derivative r0 .t0 /. The velocity vector field is the vector valued

n

function r0 V I !

R . The speed of r at t D t0 is the length of the velocity vector

0

at t D t0 , r .t0 /. The tangent vector is the unit vector t.t0 / D r0 .t0 /=jr0 .t0 /j, and

the tangent vector field is the vector valued function t 7 ! t.t /.

Observe that the regularity condition ensures that the instantaneous speed always

is different from zero so we are able to divide by jr0 j and define t. When we

42

vector v.t / to be attached to the point .t /, see Figure 2.3. If r and r1 D r f

Figure 2.3: To the left the velocity vector field and to the right the tangent vector field.

vector depends on the parametrization, but the tangent vectors satisfies t1 .t / D

f 0 .t /=j f .t /j t. f .t // D t. f .t // so the tangent vector is a well defined property

of an oriented curve, but is in general only defined up to a sign.

Definition 2.5. The straight line through a point r.t / on a regular curve parallel

to the tangent vector is called the tangent line to the curve at r.t /.

A more geometric way of defining the tangent

x0

line at a point x0 on a curve is as the limit pox1

x2

sition of a secant, i.e., a straight line through two

points x1 6 D x2 on the curve when x1 ; x2 ! x0 ,

Figure 2.4: As x1 and x2

see Figure 2.4.

approaches x0 the secant ap-

That the limit position of such a secant indeed is proaches the tangent line.

the tangent is shown in Problem 2.2.7.

The tangent to a regular curve given by r

parameterized as

u

2.2.1

7! r.t0/ C ut.t0/

or

VI!

u

7! r.t0/ C ur0.t0/

(2.1)

Length of curves

a closed interval Ta ; bU I . The points r.a / and r.b/ are called the end points of

the arc.

43

I then the length of the arc rjTa ;bU is

Z b

a

jr0.t /j dt :

The following proposition shows that the length of an arc is independent of the

parametrization.

Proposition 2.7. Let f V I1 ! I be a reparametrization of a curve r V I

and let r1 D r f . If f .Ta1 ; b1 U/ D Ta ; bU, then

Z b

a

jr0.t /j dt

Z b

1

a1

! Rn ,

jr01.u /j du :

Definition 2.8. If r V I ! Rn is a regular parametrization of a curve and t0

then the arc length measured from t0 is the function

s .t / D

Z t

t0

jr0. /j d;

2 I:

2I

(2.2)

If t t0 , then s 0 and is equal to the length of the arc between r.t0 / and r.t /.

If t t0 , then s 0 and is equal to minus the length of the arc between r.t0 / and

r.t /.

vanishes the speed jr0 j is of class C k 1 too. It now follows that the arc length

s is of class C k and that s 0 .t / D jr0 .t /j > 0 for all t 2 I . Hence s D s .t / is an

allowable change of parameter and we can use s as a parameter on the curve. This,

of course, is an abuse of notation, s denotes both the function defined by (2.2) and

a parameter, i.e, a real number. Similarly, we will denote the inverse function of

t 7! s .t / by s 7 ! t .s / so t will also denotes both a function and a parameter. The

reparametrization of t 7! r.t / by arc length, i.e., s 7 ! r.t .s // will be denoted

by the same symbol r, the advantage of this abuse of notation is that we now can

write identities like

dr

ds

dr dt

dt ds

dr

ds

dt

dt

dr

dr

dt

dt

D 1:

(2.3)

44

if jr0 .s /j D 1 for all s 2 I .

We now have

Proposition 2.10. If r V I

1.

2.

3.

4.

The length of the arc between r.s1 / and r.s2 / is js2 s1 j.

If s 7 ! r .s / is another natural parametrization, then s D s Cconstant.

If t is an arbitrary parameter, then jds =dt j D jdr=dt j.

The tangent vector is t D dr=ds.

as Problems 2.2.9 and 2.2.10. Now 3 follows

dr

dr

dr

from (2.3). Finally t D ds

ds D ds , which proves 4.

A more geometric definition of arc length is in

terms of approximating polygons. Let an arc be

given by a parametrization r.t / with t 2 Ta ; bU

and consider a partition

(2.4)

of the interval Ta ; bU. This determines a sequence

a

polygon P and a refinement P 0 .

of points in Rn

x0

D r.t0/;

x1

D r.t1/;

:::

xm

D r.tm /:

The points form an approximating polygon P as shown in Figure 2.5 The length

of P is clearly

`. P / D

m

X

i D1

jxi

xi

jD

n

X

i D1

jr.ti /

r.ti

1/

If the partition is refined to give a better polygonal approximating P 0 , see Figure 2.5 then we clearly have `. P 0 / `. P / so we are lead to consider the quantity

` D sup

m

nX

i D1

jr.ti /

r.ti

1 /j a D t0 < t1 < < tm

D b; m 2 N

(2.5)

Observe that this makes sense even if r is only continuous, but we may have

` D 1.

45

Definition 2.11. The image of a map r

length ` if

` D sup

m

nX

i D1

jr.ti /

1 /j a D t0 < t1 < < tm

r.ti

D b; m 2 N

< 1:

The following theorem shows that the two notions of arc length coincide.

Theorem 2.12. Let r V Ta ; bU ! Rn be of class C 1 , then the image is a rectifiable

arc with length

Z b

`D

jr0.t /j dt :

m

X

i D1

jr.ti /

D

r.ti

1/

m X

n

X

i D1 j D1

j

m X

n

X

i D1 j D1

jx j .ti /

jx 0 .i; j /.ti

j

m X

n

X

i D1 j D1

1/

ti

M .ti

ti

x j .ti

j

1/

1/

i D1 j D1

m

X

i D1

. If

m X

n

X

D max jr0.t /j t 2 Ta ; bU

we have a partition (2.4) then

jx 0j .i j /j.ti

ti

n M .ti

1/

ti

1/

D n M .b

a /;

Now consider an arbitrary > 0. As r is of class C 1 we can find 1 > 0 such that

jx 0j .t / x 0j .t 0/j < = 3n.b a / , j D 1; : : : ; n, if jt t 0j < 1. Furthermore,

can find 2 > 0 such that for a partition

(2.4) with ti ti 1 < 2 we have

we

Pm

R b 0

0

ti 1 / < =3. Now let D minf1 ; 2 g, and

a jr .t /j dt

i D1 jr .ti /j.ti

choose a partition such that the corresponding approximating polygon has a length

that satisfies 0 ` `. P / < =3. If we refine the partition then the inequalities

are still satisfied so we may assume that the partition has ti ti 1 < . For such

a partition we have

`

Z b

a

jr0.t /j dt j`

3 C

D3C

`. P /j C

`. P /

Z b

jr0.t /j dt

a

Z b

m

X

0

r

.

t

/

r

.

t

/

r

.

t

/

dt

i

i 1

a

i D1

Z b

m X

n

X

.x j .ti / x j .ti 1 //e j

a

i D1 j D1

jr0.t /j

dt

46

D3C

by adding and subtracting

3C

C

j q j j p

i D1 j D1

as j p j

m X

n

X

x 0j .i ; j /e j .ti

jr.ti /j.ti

m

X

i D1

n

X

i D1

ti

1 /,

j D1

1/

ti

1/

ti

jr0.t /j

dt

we obtain

n

X

0

x j .i ; j /e j

jr.ti /j.ti

Z b

!

n

X

0

x j .ti /e j .ti

j D1

Z b

r0 .t / dt

a

ti 1 /

q j we have

3C

m X

n

X

23 C

<

2

3

i D1 j D1

m X

n

X

x 0j .i ; j /

i D1 j D1

Rb

x 0j .ti /.ti

3n .b

e j .ti

x 0 .i ; j /

i D1 j D1

m X

n

X

x 0j .ti /

a/

.ti

ti

1/

ti

ti 1 /

C 3

1/

D

0

a jr .t /j dt D 0.

2.2.2 Curvature

Definition 2.13. Let r V I

dt

and the curvature is a D j j. If 6 D 0

vector t. The curvature vector is D

ds

then the radius of curvature is is D 1= , the center of curvature is the point

c D r C 2 , and the circle of curvature is the circle with center c and radius j j.

As t t D 1 differentiation with respect to arc length shows that t t0

that t ? .

D 0 and hence

In practise curves are rarely given by their natural parametrization, but the following lemma tells us how to determine the curvature of curve given in an arbitrary

parametrization.

47

Figure 2.6: To the left a curvature plot and to the right a porcupine plot of a cubic B-spline

curve. The endpoints of Bzier segments are indicated on both plots.

p

jr0j2jr00j2 .r0 r00/2 :

j

r0 j2 r00 .r0 r00 /r0

and

D

D

jr0j4

jr0j3

Furthermore, if 6 D 0, then

d

r0 r00 00

r000

4.r0 r00 /2 jr0 j2 jr00 j2 jr0 j2 .r0 r000 / 0

D

r

3

r

dt

jr0j6

jr0j4

jr0j2 :

Proof. We have t D r0 =jr0 j so

r00

r0 r00 0 jr0 j2 r00 .r0 r00 /r0

dt

D

dt

jr0j jr0j3 r D

jr0j3

so

dt

ds

dt

dt

ds

dt

0 2 00

0 00 0

D jr j r jr0.jr4 r /r ;

and hence

0 4 00 2

0 00 2 0 2

D jr j jr j C .r r /jrj0jr8j

0 2 00 2

0 00 2

D jr j jr j jr0j6.r r / :

The curvature is often used to assess the quality of a curve, either in the form of

a curvature plot or a porcupine plot, see Figure 2.6. In a porcupine plot the curve

is plotted along with the vector field scale . A designer normally wants a

slowly varying curvature plot without unnecessary undulations, so the curve above

48

would not be satisfactory. The designer would then change the curve slightly

either by changing

the control points manually, or by an automatic procedure, eg.

R

by minimizing .d=ds /2 ds, under the side condition that the control points are

only allowed to move a certain distance. This process is called fairing and the

goal is to obtain a fair curve.

2.2.3

Contact

we need the distance between points and subsets.

Definition 2.15. Let p be a point in Rn and let A be a nonempty subset of Rn .

The distance between p and A is

d . p ; A/ D inf j p

qj q

2A

Normally A will be a nice geometric object like a line, a plane, a circle, etc., but

the definition makes sense for any subset of Rn .

Example 2.3 Let L be the line parametrized as t

d . x; L / D

rr

d .x; C / D

r r C r2

where r D x

.r e/2 ;

7!

orthonormal pair of vectors. Then

q

x0

x0 .

(2.6)

2r .r e1 /2 C .r e2 /2

where r D x

x0 .

(2.7)

be a subset of Rn . We say that the curve has contact with A of order k at r.t0 / if

If t

d r.t /; A

.t t0 /k

!0

for

! t0:

d r. f .u //; A

.u u 0 /k

d r.t /; A

f .u /

f .u 0 /

k

f .u /

.u

f .u 0 /

u 0 /k

D

k

d r.t /; A

. t t0 / k

f .u /

u

f .u 0 /

u0

k

and as f .u /

f .u 0 /

.u u 0 / ! f 0 .u 0 / 6D 0 for u ! u 0 we see that the

notion of contact of order k is a property of the curve. It can in general be difficult

to determine the order of contact, but when it comes to contact between curves the

following theorem is helpful

49

of class C k . Suppose r2 .s / 6 D r1 .s0 / if s 6 D s0 , then r1 has contact of order k with

r2 at r1 .s0 / if and only if r.1l / .s0 / D r.2l / .s0 / for all l D 0; : : : ; k.

Proof. We only prove the if part. As the Taylor expansions

of r1 and r2 agree

up to order k we have r1 .s s0 / r2 .s s0 / D o .s s0 /k and hence

d r1 .s /; r2

. s s0 / k

infs1 r1 .s / r2 .s1 /

.s s0 /k

r1 .s /

r2 .s /

.s s /k

0

o .s

.s

s0 / k

s0 /k

!0

for s

! s0.

The only if part is considerable more difficult, and we will return to a special

case in Chapter 4

It can now be shown that the only straight line which has contact of order 1 with

a curve at some point is the tangent line at that point, cf. Problem 2.2.18.

Problems

2.2.1 Show, that the vector function

8

>

<.

e 1= t ; e 1= t /

r.t / D .0; 0/

>

2

2

:

.e 1= t ; e 1= t /

for t < 0

for t D 0

for t > 0

2.2.2 Show that the vector function

r. t / D t 3 ; t 2 ;

2R

2.2.3 Prove that a Bzier curve is either constant or piecewise a regular curve.

2.2.4 Prove that a B-spline curve is piecewise a constant or a regular curve.

2.2.5 We say that two vector functions ri V Ii ! Rn , i D 1; 2, of class C k are equivalent

and write r1 r2 if there exists an allowable change of parameter f V I2 ! I1 of

class C k such that r2 D r1 f . Show that is an equivalence relation, i.e., that

(a) r r.

(b) r1

r2 ) r2 r1 .

50

r2 ^ r2 r3 ) r1 r3 .

Show that if r V I ! Rn is of class C 1 and r0 .t / 6D 0 for a t 2 I then there exists

(c) r1

2.2.6

;t

C/\ I is injective.

are different and sufficiently close to t0 then there is a well defined secant through

r.t1 / and r.t2 /. Show that if t1 < t2 and t1 ; t2 ! t0 then the unit vector in the

direction r.t2 / r.t1 / converges to the tangent vector t.t0 /.

2.2.8 Prove Proposition 2.7, p. 43.

2.2.9 Prove 1 in Proposition 2.10, p. 44.

2.2.10 Prove 2 in Proposition 2.10, p 44.

2.2.11 Find the arc length of the helix in Example 2.2, and determine a natural parametrization.

2.2.12 Determine a parametrization of the tangent line to the parabola in Example 2.1 at

an arbitrary point.

2.2.13 Determine a parametrization of the tangent line to the helix in Example 2.2 at an

arbitrary point.

2.2.14 Prove that if the curvature of a regular curve is zero then the curve is a straight line.

2.2.15 Prove that

d

dt

2.2.17 Prove (2.7), p. 48.

2.2.18 Prove that if a curve has contact of order 1 with a straight line then the line is the

tangent line.

2.2.19 Let a regular curve be given by a parametrization r.t / defined on the interval Ta ; bU,

let s .t / be the arc length function, let a D t0 < t1 < < tm D b be a sequence of

parameter values, and put si D s .ti / and vi D s 0 .ti / D jr0 .ti /j.

Show that there is a unique B-spline function f V Ts0 ; sm U ! Ta ; bU of degree

(b)

s0 ; s0 ; s0 ; s0 ; s1 ; s1 ; s2 ; s2 ; : : : ; sm 1 ; sm 1 ; sm ; sm ; sm ; sm

such that f .si / D ti , and f 0 .si / D wi .

(c) Determine the control points for f (in this situation we consider a map into

R so a control point is just a real number).

51

2.3

Plane Curves

We now specialize to curves in the plane, i.e., we consider a regular parametrization r V I ! R2 . If t is the tangent vector at some point then the normal vector is

the vector n such that .t; n/ is a positively oriented orthonormal basis of R2 , see

Figure 2.7. Just like the tangent vector, the normal vector is an invariant concept

associated with an oriented curve. It changes sign if the orientation is reversed.

As the curvature vector D dt=ds and the tant

gent vector t are orthogonal we see that and

n

n are parallel. In other words we have n.

This means that we in the planar case can define

a signed curvature, which we will denote with

the same symbol , hopefully without causing to Figure 2.7: The tangent vector

much confusion. We will in this case denote the t and the normal vector n of a

previous defined curvature and radius of curva- plane curve.

ture with j j and j j respectively.

plane radius curvature is D 1= .

D n and the

If the orientation on a curve is reversed then both the tangent vector and the arc

length changes sign, so the derivative dt=ds D n is left unchanged and is thus a

property of the curve. On the other hand n changes sign so and changes sign

too. All in all we have

Proposition 2.19. For a regular plane curve we have that j j, j j, D n, n,

and the circle of curvature are invariant concepts associated with the curve. While

t, n, , and are concepts associated with an oriented curve and changes sign if

the orientation is reversed. We furthermore have the Frenet-Serret equations for a

plane curve:

dn

dt

D

n;

D t:

(2.8)

ds

ds

Proof. The only thing left to prove is the Frenet-Serret equations and we leave

that as Problem 2.3.7.

As the normal vector is to the left we easily see that if > 0 then the curve turns

left, if < 0 then the curve turns right, and that if D 0 at some point and has

different sign on each side of the point then the curve has an inflection point.

Example 2.4 Consider the circle with radius r > 0 given by the parametrization

r.t / D . x0 C r cos t ; y0 C r sin t /:

52

We easily see that rR0 .t / D . r sin t ; r cos t /, and jr0 .t /j D r , so the arc length measured

t

from t D 0 is s D 0 r d D r t. I.e., t D s = r and we obtain a natural parametrization

by s 7! r.s = r / D x0C r cos.s = r /; y0 C r sin.s = r / . The tangent vector is t D dr=ds D

sin.s = r /; cos.s = r / and the normal vector is n D

cos.s = r /; sin.s = r / and n D

dt=ds D 1= r cos.s = r /; sin.s = r / D n= r . From this we see that the curvature is

constant D 1= r , the radius of curvature is D r and the circle of curvature is the circle

itself.

curvature at a point x0 on a curve is as the limit

position of a circle through three distinct points

x1 , x2 , and x3 on the curve as x1 ; x2 ; x3 ! x0 ,

see Figure 2.8, and Problem 2.3.1.

x2

x0

x3

x1

C0

C

the only circle that has contact of order 2 with the

curve, cf. Problem 2.3.2

Figure 2.8: If x1 ; x2 ; x3 ! x0

Given a natural parametrization it is a simple mat- then C ! C0 .

ter to determine the curvature. It is in general impossible to determine a natural

parametrization, but the following theorem tells how to calculate the curvature

from an arbitrary regular parametrization.

C 2 . The curvature is then given by

r0 ; r00

3

r0

x 0

y0

x 00

y 00

x 02 C y02

3=2 ;

d

ds

2

j

r0 r0 ; r000

D

jr06

Proof. Let s denotes the arc length of the curve. We then have

dr

dt

d2 r

dt 2

dr

ds

D ds

D

t;

dt ds

dt

d2 s

tC

dt 2

ds

dt

2

dt

ds

d2 s

tC

dt 2

ds

dt

2

n:

53

Hence

dr d2 r

;

dt dt 2

D

D

"

ds d2 s

t;

tC

dt dt 2

ds

dt

ds

dt

2

ds

dt

Tt; tU C

2

n

ds

dt

3

Tt; nU D

3

dr

:

dt

As the tangent vector is a unit vector we

can write it as t D .cos ; sin / where

is an angle determined up to a multiple

t D .cos ; sin /

of 2 , see Figure 2.9. If the tangent vec

tor field is a continuous vector function

u 7 ! t.u /, then it is not hard to see that

it is possible to make a continuous choice

u 7 ! .u / of this angle. Such a choice is

unique up to a (constant) multiple of 2 Figure 2.9: The tangent direction is the

and it has the same degree of differentia- angle between the tangent and the x-axis.

bility as t.

Definition 2.21. Let r V I ! R2 be a regular parametrization of class C k . The

tangent direction is a continuous choice of such that t.u / D cos .u /; sin .u / .

We immediately have the following results.

Proposition 2.22. The tangent direction is a property of an oriented plane

curve, but if the orientation is reversed then 7 ! C . If is the curvature then d=ds D . Furthermore, if 6 D 0, then can be used as a parameter

and ds =d D , where D 1= is the radius of curvature.

Proof. As the tangent direction is a property of an oriented curve the same is true

for the tangent direction. If the orientation is reversed t changes sign and that

corresponds to adding to the tangent direction. On one hand we have dt=ds D

n and on the other hand we have d.cos ; sin /=ds D d=ds . sin ; cos / D

d=ds n, so d=ds D . If 6D 0, then is a monotone function of s, so the

inverse function exists and is differentiable with derivative ds =d D 1= d=ds D

1= D .

We can now prove that the curvature determines a plane curve uniquely up to a

Euclidean motion, i.e., up to a rotation and a translation. We formulate it as the

following theorem.

54

Figure 2.10: A plane curve is locally the graph of function from the tangent line to

the normal line.

natural parametrization r V I ! R2 of class C 2 such that is the curvature of r.

Furthermore, the curve is determined uniquely up to a Euclidean motion.

Proof. Assume r is a curve with

curvature and tangent direction . Then

Rs

d=ds D so .s / D 0 C s0 . / d . The tangent vector is now t.s / D

Rs

cos .s /; sin .s / and as dr=ds D t we must have x.s / D x0 C s0 t. / d .

Different choices of 0 corresponds to rotations and different choices of x0 corresponds to translations. All that remains is to show that the curvature of r is , but

by construction we have t D dr=ds and dt=ds D n which shows that indeed is

the curvature of r.

By inspection of the proof above we realize that the function s 7 ! .s / determines

the curve up to a translation. The equation D .s / is called an intrinsic equation

of the curve, but the equations s D s ./ or d=ds D also determine the curve

up to a translation and a Euclidean motion respectively. In fact any equation,

including differential equations, that links the arc length and the tangent direction

is called an intrinsic equation of the curve. In [14] the intrinsic equation ds =d D

was instrumental for the design of scroll compressors.

If r is a natural parametrization of a plane curve, and we put r0 D r.s0 /, and

let t, n, and be the tangent vector, the normal vector, and the curvature at s0 ,

respectively, then the Taylor expansion of r to second order at s0 is

r.s / D r0 C .s

1

s0 / t C . s

2

s0 /2 n C o .s

s0 /2 :

(2.9)

This expression is called the canonical form of a plane curve. It follows from

Theorem 2.17 that every plane curve at a point with non vanishing curvature has

second order contact with a unique parabola, cf. Problem 2.3.4. We also see that

any plane curve is locally the graph of a function from the tangent line to the

normal line, see Figure 2.10, and Problem 2.3.9.

55

r[ .t /

r] . t /

r.t /

r. t /

Figure 2.11: To the left two involutes of a curve and to the right the evolute.

We end this section by stating some properties of involutes and evolutes, all proofs

are left as problems.

Definition 2.24. Let r V I ! R2 be a regular parametrization of a regular curve

with tangent t, arc length s, and radius of curvature . An involute of r is a curve

given by

r] .t / D r.t / C .c s .t //t.t /;

(2.10)

for a c 2 R. The evolute of r is the curve given by

(2.11)

Different choices of the constant c in (2.10) lead to parallel curves and the distance between the curves is exactly the difference between the two constants, see

Figure 2.11 and Problem 2.3.11. Furthermore the two constructions are the inverse of each other in the sense that the evolute of one of the involutes gives the

original curve back, cf. Problem 2.3.13, while a curve is itself one of the involutes of its evolute, cf. Problem 2.3.14. An involute to an evolute is parallel to the

original curve and any parallel curve is obtained this way. For other properties of

involutes and evolutes, cf. Problems 2.3.102.3.15.

Problems

2.3.1 Let r V I ! R2 be a natural parametrization of a regular curve. Let t V I ! R2 be

the tangent vector field and assume that t.s0 / 6D 0. Show that if s1 < s2 < s3 are

sufficiently close to s0 then there is a well defined circle through r.s1 /; r.s2 /; r.s3 /.

Show that if s1 ; s2 ; s3 ! s0 then the centre and radius converges to the centre of

curvature and the absolute value of the radius of curvature respectively.

56

2.3.2 Show that if .s0 / 6D 0, then the curve has contact of order 2 with the circle of

curvature at the point r.s0 /. Show that the contact with any other circle is of lower

order.

2.3.3 Show that if .s0 /

at the point r.s0 /.

D 0 then the curve has contact of order 2 with the tangent line

2.3.4 Show that if .s0 / 6D 0 then the curve has contact of order 2 with a unique parabola.

the curvature vector is given by

.t / D .t /n.t / D

x 0 .t /

y 0 .t /

x 00 .t /

y 00 .t /

x 0 .t /2 C y 0 .t /2

2

y 0 .t /; x 0 .t / :

2.3.6 Find the curvature of the parabola in Example 2.1, p. 40 at an arbitrary point.

2.3.7 Prove the Frenet-Serret equations for a plane curve, cf. (2.8), p. 51.

2.3.8 Show that if a plane regular curve has constant curvature different from zero then

the curve is a circle.

2.3.9 Show that a regular plane curve locally is the graph of a function from the tangent

line to the normal line, cf. Figure 2.10, p. 54.

2.3.10 Let r V I ! R2 be a natural parametrization of a regular curve and consider the

0

involute r] .s / D r.s / C .c s /t.s /. Determine r] . For which values of s is

0

r] .s / 6D 0? Determine the tangent vector, the normal vector, and the curvature of

r] , in terms of the corresponding quantities of r.

2.3.11 Let r V I ! R2 be a natural parametrization of a regular curve. Let ri] .s / D

r.s / C .ci s /t.s /, i D 1; 2, be two different involutes of r. Show that a tangent

line of r is a normal line of both r]1 and r]2 , and that r]1 r]2 D .c2 c1 /n] , where

n] is the common normal of r]1 and r]2 .

2.3.12 Let r V I ! R2 be a natural parametrization of a regular curve and let t, n, and

be the tangent vector, the normal vector, and the radius of curvature respectively.

0

Consider the involute r[ .s / D r.s / C .s /n.s /. Determine r[ . For which values of

0[

s is r .s / 6D 0? Determine the tangent vector, the normal vector, and the curvature

of r[ . Show that a normal line of r is a tangent line of r[ .

2.3.13 Show that a curve is the evolute of any one of its involutes.

2.3.14 Show that the a curve is an involute of its evolute.

2.3.15 Consider a regular curve with non vanishing curvature and let be the tangent

direction. Consider the intrinsic equation ds =d D ./ where is the radius of

curvature. Show that the radius of curvature for the evolute is d=d . What is the

radius of curvature for an involute? Find the intrinsic equation for the evolute and

the involutes.

57

2.4

Space Curves

We now consider curves in space. Here we return to the original definition of the

curvature, cf. Definition 2.13

Definition 2.25. Let s ! r.s / be a natural parametrization of class C 3 of a space

curve. The normal plane of the curve at a point r.s / is the plane through r.s /

orthogonal to the tangent vector.

If .s / 6 D 0, then the principal normal vector is n.s / D .s /=.s / D t0 .s /=jt0 .s /j.

The binormal vector is b.s / D t.s / n.s /, and the torsion is .s / D b0 .s /

n.s /. The osculating plane is the plane through r.s / orthogonal to the binormal

vector and the rectifying plane is the plane through r.s / orthogonal to the principal

normal vector.

Notice that the two normal vectors only are defined if 6 D 0. In this case t; n; b

is a positively oriented orthonormal frame called the Frenet-Serret frame. If the

b

n

t

n

Figure 2.12: The Frenet-Serret frame at a point of a curve. The normal, osculating, and

rectifying plane is spanned by .n; b/, .t; n/, and .t; b/ respectively.

orientation on a curve is reversed then both the tangent vector and the arc length

changes sign, so the derivative dt=ds D n is left unchanged and is an invariant

property of the curve, as is , , and n. On the other hand t changes sign so b and

change sign too. All in all we have

Proposition 2.26. For a regular space curve we have that , , D n, n, and

the circle of curvature are invariant concepts associated with the curve. And t,

b, and are invariant concepts associated with the oriented curve. They change

sign if the orientation is reversed.

Just as for plane curves the circle of curvature at a point x0 on a space curve can

be defined as the limit of a circle through three distinct points x1 , x2 , and x3 on

the curve as x1 ; x2 ; x3 ! x0 , see Figure 2.8. Likewise, the osculating plane at a

58

point x0 on a space curve can be defined as the limit position of a plane through

three distinct points x1 , x2 , and x3 on the curve as x1 ; x2 ; x3 ! x0 .

It can also be shown that the circle of curvature is the only circle that has contact of

order 2 with the curve, and the osculating plane is the only plane that has contact

of order 2 with the curve.

The derivative of t, n, and b are given by the Frenet-Serret equations (2.12) in the

following theorem.

Theorem 2.27. Let s 7! r.s / be a natural parametrization of a space curve

with non vanishing curvature .s / 6 D 0, torsion .s / and Frenet-Serret frame

t.s /; n.s /; b.s /. Then

2

t0 .s /

0

4n0 .s /5 D 4 .s /

b0 . s /

0

32

.s /

0

t.s /

0

. s / 5 4 n. s / 5

.s / 0

b. s /

(2.12)

Proof. The equation t0 .s / D .s / n.s / is the equation that defines and n. As

t; n; b is an orthonormal frame we have

b0

0D

d . t b/

ds

dt

D ds

b C t db

ds

(2.13)

b0 n D so all in all we have the equation b0 .s / D .s / n.s /. Finally,

D

D

.s / t.s / C .s /b.s /:

b0 . s / n. s / b. s /

As t0 D n and b0 D n we see that the curvature is a measure for how fast the

tangent line turns around b, and the torsion is a measure for how fast the osculating

plane turns around t.

For practical calculations we need a formula that expresses the curvature, torsion

and Frenet-Serret frame in terms of an arbitrary parametrization, this is the content

of the next theorem.

59

class C 3 . The curvature is then given by

.t / D

r0 .t /

r00 .t /

:

r0 .t /3

(2.14)

.t / D

r0 .t /; r00 .t /; r000 .t /

r0 .t /

r00.t /2

(2.15)

r0 .t / r00 .t /

b. t / D 0

r .t / r00 .t /

(2.16)

n.t / D b.t / t.t /:

(2.17)

d

dt

0 00 4 0 00 2

0 00 000 0 00

0 000

D Tr ; r ; r Ujr r j jr20Tr; rr00j;4r U.r r / .r r /

. /

(2.18)

Proof. Let s denotes the arc length of the curve. We then have

dr

dt

d2 r

dt 2

d3 r

dt 3

dr

ds

D ds

D

t;

dt ds

dt

2

d2 s

tC

dt 2

d3 s

d2 r ds dt

t

C

dt 3

dt 2 dt ds

d3 s

dt 3

ds

dt

ds

dt

dt

ds

3

d2 s

tC

dt 2

ds

dt

2

C 2 ddt 2r ds

n C

dt

2

tC

Hence

dr

dt

d2 r

dt 2

2

d2 r ds

3 2

dt dt

ds

dt

3

n:

ds

dt

3

d

nC

ds

ds

dt

t n D

3

d

ds

ds

dt

3

dr

b

dt

3

nC

dn

ds

ds

dt

3

b:

60

dr d2 r d3 r

;

;

dt dt 2 dt 3

D

D

"

ds d2 s

t;

tC

dt dt 2

ds

dt

6

ds

dt

2

Tt; n; bU D

2

n; A t C B n C

dr

dt

ds

dt

3

b

d2 r

dt 2

which implies (2.15). Finally, (2.17) simply follows from the fact that t; n; b is

a positively oriented orthonormal basis and (2.18) follows by differentiation of

(2.15).

Just as in the case of a plane curve a designer will often use a curvature plot or a

porcupine plot, see Figure 2.6 to asses the qualityRof a curve. And in an automatic

fairing procedure it is again usually the integral .d=ds /2 ds that is minimized,

under some suitable side conditions. One may (and should?) take the torsion into

acount too, but there is no universally accepted way of doing this.

Just as the plane curvature determines a plane curve up to a Euclidean motion, the

curvature and torsion determine a space curve up to a Euclidean motion.

Theorem 2.29. Let I be an interval, let V I ! R be a strictly positive C 1

function and let V I ! R be a C 0 function. Let furthermore s0 2 I , let x0 be a

fixed point of R3 and let t0 ; n0 ; b0 be fixed positively oriented orthonormal basis

of R3 . Then there exists a unique regular natural parametrization r V I ! R3

of class C 3 such that the curvature is , the torsion is , r.s0 / D x0 , and the

Frenet-Serret frame .t; n; b/ satisfies t.s0 / D t0 , n.s0 / D n0 , and b.s0 / D b0 .

Proof. The Frenet-Serret equations (2.12) is a linear system of ordinary differential euations (in R9 ). It follows that there is unique solution t; n; b defined on

all of I , with t.s0 / D t0 , n.s0 / D n0 , and b.s0 / D b0 . The set t.s /; n.s /; b.s /

is a positively oriented orthonormal frame for s D s0 , we want to show that it is

a positively oriented orthonormal frame for all s 2 I . To that end we define six

functions f i V I ! R by

f 1 .s / D t.s / t.s /

f 4 . s / D n. s / n. s /

f 2 .s / D t.s / n.s /

f 5 .s / D n.s / b.s /

f 3 .s / D t.s / b.s /

f 6 . s / D b. s / b. s /

61

As t; n; b is a solution to the Frenet-Serret equations (2.12) we have

f 10

f 20

f 30

f 40

f 50

f 60

D 2t0 t D 2 n t D 2 f2

D t0 n C t n0 D n n t t C t b D f1 C f3 C f4

D t0 b C t b0 D n b t n D f2 C f5

D 2n n0 D 2 n t C 2 n b D 2 f2 C 2 f5

D n0 b C n b0 D t b C b b n n D f 3 f 4 C

D 2b b0 D 2 b n D 2 f5

f6

differential equations

2

f 10

6 f 07

6

6 27

6

6 f 07

6

6 37 D 6

0

6f 7

6

6 47

6

4 f 05

4

5

0

f6

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

32

2 3

f 1 . s0 /

1

6 f 2 . s0 / 7

6 07

6

7

6 7

6 f 3 . s0 / 7

6 7

6

7 D 6 07 :

6 f 4 . s0 / 7

6 17

6

7

6 7

4 f 5 . s0 / 5

4 05

f 6 . s0 /

1

0

f1

7

6

07 6 f 2 7

7

6 f37

07

76 7;

6 7

2 07

7 6 f47

5

0 4 f55

2 0

f6

solution. By uniqueness we have that f 1 .s /; : : : ; f 6 .s / D .1; 0; 0; 1; 0; 1/ for

all s 2 I , i.e., t.s /; n.s /; b.s / is an orthonormal frame for all s 2 I . Then we have

Tt.s /; n.s /; b.s /U D 1 for all s 2 I and as Tt.s0/; n.s0/; b.s0/U D 1 continuity

shows that t.s /; n.s /; b.s / is positively oriented for all s 2 I .

We have in particular that t.s / is a unit vector for all s 2 I so if we put

r.s / D x0 C

Z s

s0

t.u / du ;

for s

2I

t; n; b is a solution to the Frenet-Serret equations (2.12) we see that and is the

curvature and torsion respectively of r and that t; n; b is the Frenet-Serret frame.

We have now established the existence of r, but the definition of r.s / was forced

if r was to solve the problem.

If r is a natural parametrization of a space curve, and we put r0 D r.s0 /, and let

t, n, b, , and be the tangent vector, the principal normal vector, the binormal

vector, the curvature, and the torsion at s0 , respectively, then the Taylor expansion

of r to third order at s0 is

r.s / D r0 C .s

1

s0 / t C . s s0 / 2 n

2

1

C 6 .s s0/3 2t C 0n C b C o .s

s0 /3 : (2.19)

62

x2

x3

x3

x1

x1

x2

Figure 2.13: The projection of a curve into the osculating plane, the rectifying plane, and

the normal plane.

of r0 the projection into the osculating plane looks like the parabola x2 D 12 x12 ,

the projection into the rectifying plane looks like the cubic x3 D 16 x13 , and

projection into the normal plane looks like the curve x32 D 92 2 = x23 , see Figure 2.13.

Problems

2.4.1 Find the curvature, the torsion and the Frenet-Serret frame of the helix in Example 2.2, p. 40.

2.4.2 Show that if a regular space curve has non vanishing curvature and constant torsion

equal to zero then the curve is contained in a plane. Hint: first show that the

binormal b is constant. Then consider the quantity r.t / b, where r V I ! R3 is a

regular parametrization of the curve.

2.4.3 Show that if a regular space curve has constant curvature different from zero and

constant torsion equal to zero then the curve is a circle.

2.4.4 Consider the curve given by the parametrization

r. t / D

8

4

>

<.t ; t ; 0/

>

:

.0; 0; 0/

. t ; 0; t 4 /

for t < 0

for t D 0

for t > 0

Show that this is a regular parametrization of class C 3 . Let be the curvature and

show that .t / D 0 if and only if t D 0. Show that the torsion is zero for all t 6D 0.

2.4.5 Show that if a regular space curve has constant curvature and torsion, both different

from zero, then the curve is a circular helix, cf. Problem 2.4.1.

2.4.6 Let r V I ! R3 be a regular parametrization and assume that r0 .t / and r00 .t / are

linearly independent.

Show that the Gram-Schmidt orthonormalization procedure

0

00

of r .t /; r .t / gives t.t /; n.t / .

63

2.5

In this section we introduce the generalization of the Frenet-Serret frame and the

Frenet-Serret equations to higher dimensions.

Theorem 2.30. Let r V I ! Rn be a natural parametrization of a regular

curve in Rn of class C n with tangent vector t.s /. If the first n 1 derivatives

r0 .s /; r00 .s /; : : : ; r.n 1/ .s / are linearly independent then there exists n 1 normal

vectors n1 .s /; : : : ; nn 1 .s / and n 1 curvatures 1 ; : : : ; n 1 such that i .s / > 0

for i D 1; : : : ; n 2 and t.s /; n1 .s /; : : : ; nn 1 .s / is a positively oriented orthonormal frame that satisfies the Frenet-Serret equations:

2

t0

n01

n02

6

6

6

6

6 ::

6 :

6 0

4n

n0n

n 2

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

5

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

4

Furthermore, for m

1

::

:

0

0

1

2

2 0

::: :::

::: 0

::: 0

D 1; : : : ; n

:::

:::

0

0

3

:::

n

0

0

0

n

t

n1

n2

76

7

76

7

76

7

76

7

6 : 7

:: 7

:

7

6

: 76 : 7

7

n 1 5 4 nn 2 5

:::

32

nn

(2.20)

span r0 .s /; r00 .s /; : : : ; r.m / .s / D span t.s /; n1 .s /; : : : ; nm .s /

(2.21)

Proof. To ease notation a bit we put n0 D t. We now use induction to prove that

for k D 1; : : : ; n 2 we can find n1 ; : : : ; nk and 1 ; : : : ; k such that

1. n0 ; : : : ; nk are orthonormal.

D 1; : : : ; k.

3. n00 D 1 n1 and n0m D m nm 1 C m C1 nm C1 for m D 1; : : : ; k 1

As r0 and r00 are linearly independent we have in particular that t0 D r00 6 D 0. So

we can put 1 D jt0 j and n1 D t0 =1 . Then we have

t0 D 1 n1 ;

and

span r0 ; r00 D span t; n1 :

Furthermore t is a unit vector so t n1 D 0, i.e., n0 ; n1 are orthonormal. This

proves the case k D 1.

2. (2.21) holds for m

Now assume we have proved the statement for some k. By hypothesis 1, a calculation like (2.13), and hypothesis 3 we have that

nm n0k

n0m nk

k for m D k

0

otherwise

64

r.k C1/

k

X

m D0

a m nm :

r.k C2/

k

X

D

D

m D0

k

X

m D0

am0 nm

am0 nm

k

X

m D0

k

X

m D0

am n0m

a m . m nm

C mC1nmC1/ C ak n0k

As r.k C2/ 2

= span r0 ; : : : ; r.k C1/ we seethat n0k 2= span

n0 ; : : : ; nk . Furthermore

0

the orthogonal projection of nk on span n0 ; : : : ; nk is

k

X

.n0k nm /nm

m D0

k

X

m D0

k 1 nk 1 :

n0k C k 1 nk 1 =k C1 . By construction we have jnk C1 j D 1 and nk C1 nm D 0

all m D 0; : : : ; k, so n0 ; : : : ; nk C1 are orthonormal. We also have that n0k D

k nk 1 C k C1 nk C1 by construction. Finally

span r0 ; : : : ; r.k C2/ D span n0 ; : : : ; nk ; n0k D span n0 ; : : : ; nk ; nk C1 :

We have now found n0 ; : : : ; nn 2 and there is a unique unit vector nn 1 such

n0 ; : : : ; nn 1 is a positively oriented frame. We put n 1 D n0n 2 nn 1 and then

we have

n0n

2 D

n 1

X

k D0

2 nk

n 2 nn

and

n0

n0n

1 D

n 1

X

k D0

n0

nk

C n

1 nk

n 3

X

k D0

nn

n0k

nk

n0n

nn

1

nn

1 nn 1

nk

n 1

X

k D0

nn

n0k

nk

n 1 nn

65

The proof of Theorem 2.29 generalizes to curves in Rn and give us the following

theorem.

Theorem 2.31. Let I be an interval, let for k D 1; : : : ; n 2, k V I ! R be

a strictly positiv C n k 1 function and let n 1 V I ! R be a C 0 function. Let

furthermore s0 2 I , let x0 be a fixed point of R3 and let t0 ; n1;0 ; : : : ; nn 1;0 be

a fixed positively oriented orthonormal basis of Rn . Then there exists a unique

natural parametrization r V I ! Rn of class C n such that the curvatures are

1 ; : : : ; n 1 and the Frenet-Serret frame .t; n1 ; : : : ; nn 1 / satisfies t.s0 / D t0

and nk .s0 / D nk ;0 for k D 1; : : : ; n 1.

The following theorem tells us how to find the normals and curvatures from an

arbitrary parametrization of a curve in Rn .

Theorem 2.32. Let r V I ! Rn be a parametrization of class C n such that the

first n 1 derivatives are linearly independent. The normals n1 ; : : : ; nn 2 can be

found by the Gram-Schmidt orthonormalization procedure.

Step 1:

v0

Loop: for m

D 1; : : : ; n

D r0;

n0

D t D jrr0j :

2 do

vm D r C1/

.m

m

X1

k D0

r.m C1/ nk nk

nm

D jvvm j :

m

For m

D 1; : : : ; n we put

wm

D em

n 2

X

k D0

em nk nk

The curvatures 1 ; : : : ; n

m

and if wm

2 ; em

6D 0 then

U < 0 otherwise

nn

D jwwm j

m

is used.

r.m C1/ nm

jr0jjvm 1j ;

D 1; : : : ; n

1:

(2.22)

the first n 2 normals. For at least one m we have that n0 ; : : : ; nn 2 ; em is a

basis. For such a m n0 ; : : : ; nn 2 ; wm =jwm j is an orthonormal basis so nn 1 D

66

wm =jwm j. The sign is determined by the requirement that n0; : : : ; nn 1 is positively oriented, i.e., by

the requirement that Tn0 ; : :: ; nn 1 U D 1. Sothe sign is the

same as the sign of n0 ; : : : nn 1 ; wm =jwmj D n0 ; : : : nn 1 ; wm =jwm j which

has the same sign as n0 ; : : : nn 1 ; wm D n0 ; : : : nn 1 ; em .

For m D 1; : : : ; n 1 we now have

m

X2

jvm 1jnm 1 D r

.m /

k D0

r.m / nk nk

djvm

ds

jn

m 1

C jvm 1j dndsm

dr.m /

ds

m

X2

dnk

d r.m / nk

nk

r.m / nk

ds

ds

k D0

k D0

m

m

. m C 1/

X2 d r.m / nk

X2

dnk

D r jr0j

nk

r.m / nk

:

ds

ds

k D0

k D0

m

X2

m C1

jvm 1jm D r jr0j nm

.

Problems

2.5.1 Let r V I ! Rn be a natural parametrization of a regular curve of class C n and

assume that the derivatives r0 .s /; : : : ; r.n 1/ .s / are linearly independent. Show that

if the Gram-Schmidt orthonormalization

procedure is used on r0 .s /; : : : ; r.n 1/ .s /

then we get n0 .s /; : : : ; nn 2 .s / .

2.5.2 Let r V I ! Rn be a regular parametrization of class C n and assume that the derivatives r0 .t /; : : : ; r.n 1/ .t / are linearly independent. Show

that the Gram-Smidth or

thonormalization procedure of r0 .t /; : : : ; r.n 1/ .t / gives n0 .t /; : : : ; nn 2 .t / .

2.5.3 Check that the procedure in Theorem 2.32 for n

Theorem 2.20.

2.5.4 Check that the procedure in Theorem 2.32 for n

Theorem 2.28.

2.5.5 What simplifications can be made to the procedure in Theorem 2.28 if we only

want 1 ; : : : ; n 12 ; jn 1 j, i.e., if we ignore the sign of n 1 .

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