Suppose that we have two concentric (sharing the same center) circles, one bigger than the other. We draw a chord of the bigger circle such that it is tangent to the smaller circle. If the length of the chord is , then what is the area in between the two circles? (Fun fact: the area between two concentric circles is called an annulus)
You may be asking me now: Isn't there supposed to be more information? You didn't give me the radii of any of the circles, how are you expecting me to solve this?
Well, let's see what we can solve; maybe that will put forth some insight on what we still need.
First, denote the center to be . Let the point of tangency of the chord on the little circle be , and an endpoint of the chord be . Finally, let the radius of the small circle be and the radius of the large circle be .
Notice that , because is half of the chord, which has length . Since because is tangent to the small circle, we can use the Pythagorean Theorem on .
Using it gives , or . But now it seems like we're stuck. Not only do we not know , but we also do not know . What should we do?
You Algebra-savvy people out there might go aha! we have difference of squares, so why not factorize? But always remember to check what your final goal is before irrationally doing random computations. We want to find the area in between the two circles. The area of the large circle is , and the area of the small circle is ; therefore the area in between is .
But wait a minute! , and we know the value of ! So therefore the area in between the two circles is and we are done.
Now, this is pretty neat! Without knowing the radii of either circle--just knowing the length of the chord--let us solve the area between the circles. Does that mean that the radius of the circles can be anything and the area in between won't change?
Well, why don't you try it yourself? Change into anything you want: , , even ; and see if the area in between changes or not.
A special case of might have come up to your mind now: what if ?
In that case, the circle in the center disappears, and the problem degenerates to finding the area of a circle with diameter ! And when we find the area, we see that indeed, the area still equals . This strategy--of considering a degenerate, or special, case of a more general problem--is often useful for solving questions faster. Finding the area of a simple circle certainly is easier than doing all that we just did; however, use this strategy with caution.
You've been listening to me rambling on for quite some time now; why not try a few questions for yourself?
1. Two concentric circles have the property that a chord of the bigger circle that is tangent to the smaller one has length . What is the area in between the two circles?
2. Three concentric circles have the property that the radius of is bigger than the radius of , and the radius of is bigger than the radius of . A chord of circle of length is drawn such that it is tangent to circle ; a chord of circle of length is drawn such that it is tangent to circle . If the area between circle and is twice the area between circle and circle , then what is the value of ? Express your answer in simplest radical form.
3. A regular pentagon is both circumscribed by a circle and inscribed by a circle. Let the area between the circles be . A regular decagon is also both inscribed and circumscribed by a circle. Let the area between those circles be . If the side lengths of the two polygons are equal, then what is the ratio of ?
4. Prove the general formula. That is, the area between two circles, with the chord of one tangent to another, is , where is the length of the chord.
Feel free to ask any questions, or post your own problems!