Math Insight

Applet: Area transformation of polar coordinates map

The transformation from polar coordinates to Cartesian coordinates $(x,y)=\cvarf(r,\theta) = (r \cos\theta, r \sin \theta)$ maps a rectangle $\dlr^*$ in the $(r,\theta)$ plane (left panel) to the region $\dlr$ in the $(x,y)$ plane (right panel). It also maps each small rectangle in $\dlr^*$ to a “curvy rectangle” in $\dlr$. Although the small rectangles in $\dlr^*$ are the same size, the corresponding “curvy rectangles” vary greatly in size. Depending on the coordinates $(r,\theta)$, the map $\cvarf(r,\theta)$ shrinks or expands the area by different amounts. You can visualize the mapping of the small rectangles by dragging the yellow point in either panel; the corresponding small rectangle in $\dlr^*$ and its image in $\dlr$ are highlighted. You can also change the regions $\dlr^*$ and $\dlr$ by dragging the purple and cyan points in either panel.

Applet file: polar_coordinates_map_rectangle_area_transformation.ggb

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