A Sangaku with an Egyptian Attachment:
What Is This About?
A Mathematical Droodle
What if applet does not run? 
Activities Contact Front page Contents Geometry
Copyright © 19962018 Alexander Bogomolny
The applet purports to suggest the following sangaku [Temple Geometry, p. 3]:
Assume points A and B are fixed on a line AB and two circles are drawn touching AB at A and B and tangent to each other. A circle Q is tangent to AB and the two circles externally. Prove that, as the two circles change, circle Q remains tangent to a fixed circle through A and B. Moreover, the radius of the latter is 5/8·AB. 
(This is a Sangaku from the Miyagi prefecture whose tablet has disappeared long ago.)
We already met this configuration and now how to compute the radius and location of circle Q. If the radii of the circles on A and B are R_{1} and R_{2}, the radius of circle Q r and the horizontal distances between the left circle and Q and Q and the right circle are x and y then
(1) 
x² = 4R_{1}r, y² = 4R_{2}r, (x + y)² = 4R_{1}R_{2}. 
Let for some configuration of the circles, a circle with center O, radius R and passing through A and B also touches circle, Q as shown. This gives us two right triangles with sides
h = OM, (x + y)/2, R and r + h, (x  y)/2, R  r. 
The Pythagorean theorem implies two identities:
h² + (x + y)²/4 = R² and (r + h)² + (x  y)²/4 = (R  r)². 
Substituting h² from the first into the second gives
(2)  2Rr = xy  2rh. 
However, from (1), xy = 2r(x + y), which transforms (2) into
(2)  2Rr = 2r(x + y)  2rh, 
or
R + h = x + y = 2·(x + y)/2. 
It's not hard to see that the only right triangle in which twice one leg equals the sum of the hypotenuse and the other leg are equal is the famous 345 triangle, often referred to as the Egyptian triangle. Indeed, let a, b, c be the legs and the hypotenuse of a right triangle that satisfy say
(3)  a + c = 2b. 
Then since a² + b² = c², we have
a² + b² = (2b  a)², 
from which
3b = 4a, 
and then (3) implies
3c = 5a and 4c = 5b. 
If we define t = a/3, then
a = 3t, b = 4t, c = 5t. 
This tells us that R and H and hence O do not depend on the values of x and y but only on their sum
Applying inversion Michel Cabart found a shorter solution to the problem:
Let's transform the figure by an inversion with center A letting point B invariant. Then
 line (AB) is globally invariant,
 circle (A) becomes line (A') parallel to (AB),
 circle (B) becomes circle (B') tangent to (AB) in B and to line (A'),
 circle (Q) becomes circle (Q') tangent to (B') and to lines (A') and (AB), thus equal to (B').
The tangent (BF) to circle (Q') satisfies:
References
H. Fukagawa, D. Pedoe, Japanese Temple Geometry Problems, The Charles Babbage Research Center, Winnipeg, 1989
Write to:
Charles Babbage Research Center
P.O. Box 272, St. Norbert Postal Station
Winnipeg, MB
Canada R3V 1L6
Sangaku

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Activities Contact Front page Contents Geometry
Copyright © 19962018 Alexander Bogomolny