# Arc length of a polar curve

Bipolarity
If we divide the polar curve into infinitely thin sectors, the arc length of a single sector can be approximated by $ds = \frac{dθ}{2π}2πr = rdθ$. So why can't we model the arc length of the curve as $\int^{β}_{α} rdθ$

It turns out that the correct formula is actually
$\int^{β}_{α}\sqrt{r^{2}+(\frac{dr}{dθ})^{2}} \ dθ$
I know how the correct formula is derived, I just can't figure out why the reasoning for the first formula is incorrect.

BiP

## Answers and Replies

Homework Helper
Gold Member
By Pythagoras, ds2 = (rdθ)2+dr2. You can't go ignoring the dr term in general.

Bipolarity
By Pythagoras, ds2 = (rdθ)2+dr2. You can't go ignoring the dr term in general.

My question was, why can't you use the arc length of the sector?

BiP

Homework Helper
Gold Member
My question was, why can't you use the arc length of the sector?

BiP
Because in general the radial movement is of comparable magnitude to the tangential movement. In the extreme case, part of the curve might move directly away from the origin, so there dθ would be zero and you would only have dr.