Chaitanya's Random Pages

October 28, 2015

The product of distances to a point from vertices of a regular polygon

Filed under: mathematics — ckrao @ 11:12 am

Here is a cool trigonometric identity I recently encountered:

\displaystyle \prod_{k=1}^n \sin \frac{(2k-1)\pi}{4n} = \prod_{k=1}^n \cos \frac{(2k-1)\pi}{4n} = \frac{\sqrt{2}}{2^n}.

For example, for n = 9:

\displaystyle \sin 5^{\circ} \sin 15^{\circ} \sin 25^{\circ} \ldots \sin 85^{\circ} = \frac{\sqrt{2}}{2^9}.

After thinking about it for some time I realised that the terms on the left side can each be seen as half the lengths of chords of a unit circle with 4n evenly spaced points that can then be rearranged to be distances from a point on the unit circle to half of the points of a regular (2n)-gon, as shown in the figure below.


With the insight of this figure we then write

\begin{aligned} \prod_{k=1}^n \sin \frac{(2k-1)\pi}{4n} &= \left(\prod_{k=1}^{2n} \left| \sin \frac{(2k-1)\pi}{4n} \right|\right)^{1/2} \quad \text{ (all terms are positive)}\\ &= \prod_{k=1}^{2n} \left| \frac{\exp(i\frac{(2k-1)\pi}{4n}) - \exp(-i\frac{(2k-1)\pi}{4n})}{2i} \right|^{1/2} \\ &= \frac{1}{2^n} \prod_{k=1}^{2n} \left| \exp\left(-i \frac{(2k+1)\pi}{4n}\right) \left(\exp\left(i\frac{4k\pi}{4n}\right) - \exp\left(i\frac{2\pi}{4n}\right)\right) \right|^{1/2}\\ &= \frac{1}{2^n} \prod_{k=1}^{2n} \left| \exp\left(-i \frac{(2k+1)\pi}{4n}\right) \right|^{1/2} \left| \left(\exp\left(i\frac{4k\pi}{4n}\right) - \exp\left(i\frac{2\pi}{4n}\right)\right) \right|^{1/2}\\ &= \frac{1}{2^n} \prod_{k=1}^{2n} \left| \left(\exp\left(i\frac{2k\pi}{2n}\right) - \exp\left(i\frac{\pi}{2n}\right)\right) \right|^{1/2}\\ &= \frac{1}{2^n} \left|\prod_{k=1}^{2n} \left(z-\exp\left(i\frac{2k\pi}{2n}\right)\right) \right|^{1/2} \quad \text{where }z = \exp\left(i\frac{\pi}{2n}\right)\\ &= \frac{1}{2^n} |(z^{2n}-1)|^{1/2}\\ &= \frac{1}{2^n} |-1-1|^{1/2}\\ &= \frac{\sqrt{2}}{2^n}. \end{aligned}

(The cosine formula can be derived in a similar manner.)

In general, the product of the distances of any point z in the complex plane to the n roots of unity \omega_n  is

\displaystyle \prod_{k=0}^{n-1} |z-\omega_n| = |z^n - 1|.

The above case was where z^n = -1. Two more cases are illustrated below, this time for n = 10. In the left example the product of distances is

\displaystyle \prod_{k=0}^9 |(1+i)-\exp(2\pi i k/10)| = |(1+i)^{10}-1| = 5\sqrt{41}

while for the right example it is

\displaystyle \prod_{k=0}^9 |1/2-\exp(2\pi i k/10)| = |(1/2)^{10}-1| = 1023/1024.


Note that earlier in the year I posted on the distances to a line from vertices of a regular polygon.


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