Happy New Year and welcome to my first post of 2019!

My last post introduced the idea of modelling physical things with math equations. To do this from scratch, requires calculus but seeing the final result is very interesting. So in my last post, I modelled the simple physical event of a ball thrown into the air. Another common example when introducing modelling to students is a mass on a spring. But before I develop this, I want to show what the graphs of some trigonometric equations look like as they will be needed to describe any kind of motion that is cyclic, that is, repeats like a mass on a spring bobbing up and down.

So in a previous post, I defined what sin 𝜃 and cos 𝜃 are in terms of a right triangle. Given the below triangle

the sine and cosine of 𝜃 are defined as\[ \sin\mathit{\theta}\hspace{0.33em}{=}\hspace{0.33em}\frac{\mathrm{opp}}{\mathrm{hyp}}\hspace{0.33em}\hspace{0.33em}\hspace{0.33em}\hspace{0.33em}\hspace{0.33em}\hspace{0.33em}\hspace{0.33em}\cos\mathit{\theta}\hspace{0.33em}{=}\hspace{0.33em}\frac{\mathrm{adj}}{\mathrm{hyp}}\]

Let’s look at the sine for now. For very small angles, the opposite side will be small compared to the hypotenuse. Graphically, I think you can see that for an angle of 0°, there would be no opposite side so sin 0° = 0.

In the other extreme, as the angle gets close to 90°, the opposite side is close to the length of the hypotenuse, so the sine approaches 1. In fact,

sin 90° = 1.

Now angles are periodic in that they repeat every 360°. That is, an angle of 30° is also 30 + 360 = 390°. Another full circle of 360° can be added again to get an equivalent angle 390 + 360 = 750°. Angles can also be negative based on a convention of which direction you move to create the angle. Even with negative angles, multiple of 360° can be added or subtracted to get an equivalent angle whose sine will be the same. The below diagram shows these variations based on angles generated from the positive *x*-axis:

The angle in red is a positive angle, that is it is formed by going in the counter-clockwise direction from the *x*-axis. From that angle, you can go 1, 2, 3, etc complete circles to form the same angle. The angle in blue is a negative angle, that is it is formed by going clockwise from the *x*-axis. One can also go multiple complete circles around this angle to get the same angle. The point is that as you measure angles from 0, either in the positive or negative direction. you eventually repeat the same angles and these same angles will have the same sine value.

In my next post, I will plot the sine values against the angle values and show graphically what “periodic” means.