Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Proof incorrect

  1. Mar 16, 2010 #1


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    What is wrong with my proof?

    Let [tex]\theta=cos^{-1}x-\frac{\pi}{2}[/tex]

    Then [tex]cos\theta=cos\left(cos^{-1}x-\frac{\pi}{2}\right)[/tex]



    Therefore [tex]\theta=cos^{-1}(-\sqrt{1-x^2})[/tex]


    Hence [tex]cos^{-1}x-\frac{\pi}{2}=\pi-cos^{-1}\sqrt{1-x^2}[/tex]

    So finally, [tex]cos^{-1}x+cos^{-1}\sqrt{1-x^2}=\frac{3\pi}{2}[/tex]

    Except this is untrue for all values except [itex]x=-1[/itex]. I'm guessing I probably made a substitution which is valid for only certain values. Inverse trig seems to do that a lot to me :cry:
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 16, 2010 #2
    The last line here is wrong. The appropriate identity states:
    [tex]\cos(\alpha-\beta) = \cos\alpha\,\cos\beta + \sin \alpha\,\sin\beta[/tex]
    So you should have gotten:

    In the future a good way to identify an error in an argument about trigonometric identities is to simply plug in a number. Preferably one whose value you can calculate under the functions you are working with and which doesn't have very nice symmetric properties since that is usually where errors creep in. For instance in your case I would have tested with x=1/2 which would have yielded:
    [tex]\theta = \cos^{-1}1/2 - \pi/2 = -\pi/6[/tex]
    [tex]\cos\theta = \sqrt{3}\pi/2[/tex]
    [tex](1/2)\cos\pi/2 - \sin(\cos^{-1}(1/2))\sin\pi/2 = - \sin(\pi/3) = -\sqrt{3}\pi/2[/tex]
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook