Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from jenny, a student:

well i want to know where do trigonometry use beside been architecture and engineer?

Hi Jenny.


You can type trigonometry into the search form on our Math Beyond School section and you'll find some articles that describe other places for trig.

Besides those, if you type in sine or cosine into our Quandaries and Queries search, then you'll find many problems people have sent to us where we used trigonometry to solve them. Some examples are:

  • Calculating the lot size of a property (sample, sample, sample)
  • Determining the distances an object has moved (sample)
  • Determining the height of a tower when you can't measure it directly (sample)
  • Determining how much concrete to order to pack an irrigation ditch (sample)
  • Figuring out how much water you need to fill a semi-circular aquarium (sample)
  • Making the right angled cuts for carpentry (sample, sample)
  • Determining the safe hours to go cliff diving into the sea (sample)
  • For air traffic control (sample)
  • Making special jewelry settings (sample)
  • Building a wishing well (sample)
  • Designing a three dimensional star (sample)
  • Figuring out the trajectory of a ball, bullet, or anything else (sample)

There are dozens more in our archive as well.

In Geology, the angles that earth's plates meet each other affects the likelihood of earthquakes. Trigonometry is essential for this.

In chemistry, the atoms in a molecule bond at particular angles and crystallize in particular forms (this is why, for example, snowflakes always have six sides). Trigonometry figures out the molecular forms and helps predict the effects up at our scale.

In astronomy, trigonometry is used for calculating where in the sky particular stars are and how they are moving relative to us. Precise calculations help us to find earth-like planets around other stars that might be home to other forms of life.

In navigation, GPS, radar, and even sky navigation, trigonometry is the mathematical foundation for calculating one's position.

And there is music.

I could continue this list, but it really is endless, Jenny.

Stephen La Rocque.

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