Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lesson 10-8: The Volume of a Sphere (Day 133)

This is what I wrote last year about today's lesson. Here, I compared the treatment of the volume in two different texts, an old McDougal Littell California seventh grade text and the U of Chicago text:

The McDougal Littell text, in Lesson 10.7, demonstrates the sphere volume formula the same way that it does the cone volume formula. We take a cone whose height and radius are both equal to the radius of the sphere, and we find out how many conefuls of sand fill the sphere. The text states that two conefuls make up a hemisphere, and so four conefuls make up the entire sphere.

But of course, we want to derive the formula more rigorously. Recall that Dr. David Joyce states that a limiting argument is the best that can be done at this level -- but I disagree. Dr. Franklin Mason, meanwhile, enthusiastically gives another derivation of the sphere volume formula, and Dr. M's proof also appears in the U of Chicago text. Recall that Dr. M considers this day on which the sphere volume formula -- Lesson 12.6 of his text -- is derived to be one of the three best days of the year.

The U of Chicago text mentions that this proof uses Cavalieri's Principle. But it was hardly the mathematician Cavalieri who first proved the sphere volume formula. Indeed, according to Dr. M, this proof goes all the way back to Archimedes -- the ancient Greek mathematician who lived a few years after Euclid. (It's possible that their lives overlapped slightly.)

Here is a Square One TV video about Archimedes:

We mentioned earlier that Archimedes used polygons to determine the value of pi (also known as Archimedes' constant) -- hence the line in the song, "He was busy calculating pi." He was also famous for using the principle of buoyancy (also known as Archimedes' principle) to determine whether the king's gold crown was a fake -- and this is also mentioned in the song. Legend has it that the Greek mathematician was so excited when he discovered his principle -- he had been in a public bath at the time -- that he ran down the streets naked and shouted out "Eureka!" to announce his discovery. The Greek word eureka, meaning "I have found," is the motto of my home state of California.

But Archimedes himself actually considered the discovery of the sphere volume formula to be his crowning achievement -- to the extent that he requested it to be engraved on his tombstone. So let's finally derive that formula the way that Archimedes did over 2000 years ago. And no, he didn't simply drop a ball into water to determine the formula. Archimedes' sphere formula has nothing to do with Archimedes' principle of buoyancy.

We begin by considering three figures -- a cone, a cylinder, and a sphere. We will use the known volumes of the cone and cylinder to determine the unknown volume of the sphere -- thereby reducing the problem to a previously solved one.

Our cylinder will have the same radius as the sphere, while the height of the cylinder will equal the diameter (i.e., twice the radius) of the sphere. This way, the sphere will fit exactly in the cylinder.

Our cone, just like the cone mentioned in McDougal Littell, will have the its height and radius both equal to the radius of the sphere. Such a cone could fit exactly in a hemisphere. But we want there to be two cones, so that their combined height is the same as that of the cylinder. We set up the cones so that they have a common vertex (i.e., they are barely touching each other) and each base of a cone is also a base of the cylinder. The two touching cones are often referred to as a "double cone" -- Dr. M uses the term "bicone." (A bicone is also used to justify to Algebra II students why a hyperbola is a conic section with two branches. A hyperbola is the intersection of a bicone and a plane, such that the plane touches both cones.)

The focus is on the volume between the cylinder and the bicone. The surprising fact is that this volume is exactly equal to the volume of the sphere! Here is the proof as given by the U of Chicago:

"...the purple sections are the plane sections resulting from a plane slicing these figures in their middles. These purple sections are congruent circles with area pi * r^2. At h units above each purple section is a section shaded in pink. In the sphere, by the Pythagorean Theorem, the pink section is a small circle with radius sqrt(r^2 - h^2). The area of this section is found using the familiar formula for the area of a circle.

"Area(small circle) = pi * sqrt(r^2 - h^2) = pi(r^2 - h^2)

"For the region between the cylinder and the cones, the section is the pink ring between circles of radius r and h. (The radius of that circle is h because the acute angle measures 45 degrees, so an isosceles triangle is formed.)

"Area(ring) = pi * r^2 - pi * h^2 = pi(r^2 - h^2)

"Thus the pink circles have equal area. Since this works for any height h, Cavalieri's Principle can be applied. This means that the volume of the sphere is the difference in the volume of the cylinder (B * 2r) and the volume of the two cones (each with volume 1/3 *B * r).

"Volume of sphere = (B * 2r) - 2 * (1/3 * B * r)
                            = 2Br - 2/3 * Br
                            = 4/3 * Br

"But here the bases of the cones and cylinder are circles with radius r. So B = pi * r^2. Substituting,

"Volume of sphere = 4/3 * pi * r^2 * r
                            = 4/3 * pi * r^3." QED

The sphere volume is indeed the crowning achievement of Chapter 10. We began the chapter with the volume of a box and end up with the volume of the least box-like figure of all, the sphere. The start of Lesson 10-8 summarizes how we did this:

"It began with a postulate in Lesson 10-3 (volume of a box). Cavalieri's Principle was then applied and the following formula was deduced in Lesson 10-5 (volume of a prism or cylinder). A prism can be split into 3 pyramids with congruent heights and bases. Using Cavalieri's Principle again, a formula was derived in Lesson 10-7 (volume of a pyramid or cone). In this lesson, still another application of Cavalieri's Principle results in a formula for the volume of a sphere."

So take that, Dr. Katharine Beals! After all, she was the one who derided Cavalieri's Principle as progressive fluff that the Common Core tests on instead of actual math. But without Cavalieri's Principle, we'd be stuck finding the volumes of only boxes and their unions. Well, I suppose if we simply declared the volume formulas by fiat (i.e., as postulates) rather than actually deriving them, then Cavalieri's Principle is not needed. But if we want to prove them, then the Principle gives us an elegant proof of the sphere volume formula that was discovered over 2000 years before there ever was a Common Core -- a proof that, if mastered, should permit one to date a mathematician's daughter (as Beals mentioned on her website regarding the Quadratic Formula proof).

Sadly, we don't know whether Archimedes ever dated anyone's daughter, or whether he ever had daughters of his own. His life ended tragically, being captured by an enemy army. Legend has it that he was busy working on a geometry problem when the Roman army captured him. His last words before he was killed are said to be, "Noli turbare circulos meos" -- Latin for "Do not disturb my circles!"

This wasn't supposed to be a traditionalists-labeled post, but as I already started with traditionalism by discussing Beals and Cavalieri's Principle, let me point out this New York Times article:


"Rejected by Colleges, ACT and SAT Try High Schools."

The article discusses how more and more colleges don't require an entrance exam, while more and more states are using ACT and SAT as Common Core accountability tests.

I'll have more to say about this issue later.

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