The Broken Chord Theorem
by Paper Folding
The applet below is an illustration of an elegant theorem credited to Archimedes.
Assume for the definiteness' sake that AC > BC, so that M lies on AC and the theorem states that
|(1)||AM = MC + BC.|
To get an insight into the likely origins of the problem, we'll start with an isosceles triangle APF in which
This shows that the configuration in the Broken Chord theorem is naturally arrived at by paper folding. For a proof one only needs to unfold the paper. Or so it seems ...
|What if applet does not run?|
We may start with extending AC to F, as in another proof. But first note that the problem presents several pairs of inscribed angles subtended by the same arcs. For this proof, we are interested in three pairs (all different from the one used elsewhere):
α = ∠PAC = ∠PBC,|
β = ∠ABP = ∠ACP,
γ = ∠BAC = ∠BPC.
The three angles are not independent. Since ΔAPB is isosceles we observe that
|(2)||α + γ = β.|
We now proceed with the construction. Let F lie on the extension of AC so that CF = BC. ΔBCF is isosceles. Its apex angle is exterior to ΔABC, from which we conclude that
∠BCF = α + β + γ = 2β.
If T is the point (not shown in the applet) where PC crosses BF, then ∠FCT is vertical to
Nathan Bowler came up with a shorter and a more direct argument. First observe that
∠BAP + ∠BCP = π.
∠BAP = ∠ABP = β = ∠ACP.
So it follows that PC is the external angle bisector at C of ΔBCF. Which, in turn, implies that the reflection F of B falls on the extension of AC. A shorter way to unfolding!
As an extra insight, observe that we might have reflected in PC vertex A instead of B. This would produce another isosceles triangle BPG equal to APF. A proof may now be built based the fact that the triangles are obtained from each other by a rotation around P.
- S. E. Louridas, M. Th. Rassias, Problem-Solving and Selected Topics in Euclidean Geometry, Springer, 2013 (69-71)