Curve of a hanging chain

From: Nicholas Bodley (
Date: Wed Mar 28 2001 - 19:50:42 PST

Try this one on your bright students: if nobody knows, try to find a
simple mathematical expression to describe the curve of a hanging
chain with identical links. Jewelry chain should work OK.
Polynomial approximations are cheating! Curve is called a catenary,
fairly sure. (Latin: catena (or some closely related root) = chain)

Another one: Try creating a curve by dragging a cylindrical weight
with a pen in its center on a large sheet of paper (butcher?). The
weight has a string attached; move the far end of the string in an
exact straight line, beginning with a movement perpendicular to the
string. As the weight moves, the angle between the string and its
path line becomes progressively smaller. IIrc, it's called a

Nicholas Bodley |@| Waltham, Mass.
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