Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Katherine, a student:

Hi, my name is Katherine, and my mean old math teacher just assigned us a test in which we have to write two examples of how parabolas are used in the real world, each one page single spaced, size 12!!  I know you have already answered some questions like this, but I still don't understand the whole baseball thing, and any other way parabolas are used. And how I can write a whole page on it.

But that's my problem, not yours, I just need help with a little explanation on how parabolas are actually used today.  I know this might be kind of confusing for you, but imagine how it is for me!!

We have two responses for you Katherine:

Well it is a test so I can't do it for you, but if you spend a little effort to search our site you'll find that others have asked about parabolas and there's information waiting for someone with a little industry.



Hi Katherine.

If you go to our list of topics, you will find parabolas there. Take a look at the various questions (including several that ask about practical uses of parabolas).

You could certainly write about parabolic satellite dishes - there is plenty of material on that. A related idea is parabolic mirrors, such as are used in spotlights, solar ovens, lasers or telescopes. A property of parabolas makes light (or electromagnetic waves of any sort) focus. You could describe how it does this and why it is important.

You could also write about suspension bridges, because using parabolic shapes there distributes the load evenly.

Stephen La Rocque.>


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