Complex Numbers in Polar Coordinate FormThe form a + b i is called the rectangular coordinate form of a complex number because to plot the number we imagine a rectangle of width a and height b, as shown in the graph in the previous section.But complex numbers, just like vectors, can also be expressed in polar coordinate form, r ∠ θ . (This is spoken as “r at angle θ ”.) The figure to the right shows an example. The number r in front of the angle symbol is called the magnitude of the complex number and is the distance of the complex number from the origin. The angle θ after the angle symbol is the direction of the complex number from the origin measured counterclockwise from the positive part of the real axis. For any complex number z, writing | z | denotes its magnitude. For example the four complex numbers 5 and −5 and 3 + 4 i and 5 ∠ 120° all have magnitude 5 because they are all a distance 5 from the origin. Using magnitude notation we write | 5 | = 5 and | −5 | = 5 and | 3 + 4 i | = 5 and | 5 ∠ 120° | = 5. |
Polar → Rectangular ConversionSuppose we have a complex number expressed in polar form and we want to express it in rectangular form. (That is, we know r and θ and we need a and b.) Referring to the figure we see that we can use the formulas:Rectangular → Polar ConversionOn the other hand, suppose we have a complex number expressed in rectangular form and we want to express it in polar form. (That is, we know a and b and we need r and θ.) We see that we can use the formulas: |
(5 ∠ 30°) · (3 ∠ 25°) = (5·3) ∠ (30+25)° = 15 ∠ 55°
Just for fun we converted both numbers to polar form (with angles in radians), then did the division in polar, then converted the result back to rectangular form.
x ^{m} · x ^{n} = x ^{m + n} and x ^{m} / x ^{n} = x ^{m − n}.They suggest that perhaps the angles are some kind of exponents. This guess turns out to be correct. We will prove in the next section that: where as usual the base e is the number e = 2.71828… The form r e ^{i} θ is called exponential form of a complex number. The next example shows the same complex numbers being multiplied in both forms:
Notice that in the exponential form we need nothing but the familiar properties of exponents to obtain the result of the multiplication. That is much more pleasing than the polar form where we have to introduce strange rules about multiplying lengths and adding angles.
polar form
exponential form
This identity, due to Leonard Euler, shows that there is a deep connection between exponential decay and sinusoidal oscillations. To prove it we need a way to calculate the sine, cosine and exponential of any value of θ just like a calculator does. Taylor series provides a way.
Euler’s identity
Solution: The pattern is easiest to spot in polar,
where i = 1 ∠ 90°. Then:The plot is shown to the right. The various powers give a sequence of complex numbers that goes in a counterclockwise circle of radius 1 about the origin. After the 4th power the angle is greater than 360° but the counterclockwise pattern continues with new numbers falling on top of old numbers. |
Convert the base to exponential form. Remember the angle must be in radians. The base now contains two factors. Apply the property of exponents
(a b) ^{m} = a ^{m} · b ^{m}.Apply the property of exponents
b ^{m + n} = b ^{m} · b ^{n} .Move the real factors to the front and evaluate them. Change the base from 5 to e by using the identity
5 = e ^{ln(5)}.Combine the exponents and evaluate. Express the answer in exponential, polar or rectangular form.
Solution: Obviously one of the roots is 2.
According to DeMoivre’s theorem there are three roots and that
all three are located uniformly in a circle about the origin as shown.
That they are cube roots of 8 can be verified by cubing them.
For example: |
Algebra Coach Exercises |