Derivative of Arc Length

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Let $C$ be a curve in the cartesian plane described by the equation $y = \map f x$.

Let $s$ be the length along the arc of the curve from some reference point $P$.

Then the derivative of $s$ with respect to $x$ is given by:

$\dfrac {\d s} {\d x} = \sqrt {1 + \paren {\dfrac {\d y} {\d x} }^2}$

Proof 1

Consider a length $\d s$ of $C$, short enough for it to be approximated to a straight line segment:


By Pythagoras's Theorem, we have:

$\d s^2 = \d x^2 + \d y^2$

Dividing by $\d x^2$ we have:

\(\ds \paren {\frac {\d s} {\d x} }^2\) \(=\) \(\ds \paren {\frac {\d x} {\d x} }^2 + \paren {\frac {\d y} {\d x} }^2\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds 1 + \paren {\frac {\d y} {\d x} }^2\)

Hence the result, by taking the principal square root of both sides.


Proof 2

From Continuously Differentiable Curve has Finite Arc Length, $s$ exists and is given by:

\(\ds s\) \(=\) \(\ds \int_P^x \sqrt {1 + \paren {\frac {\d y} {\d u} }^2} \rd u\)
\(\ds \leadsto \ \ \) \(\ds \frac {\d s} {\d x}\) \(=\) \(\ds \frac {\d} {\d x} \int_P^x \sqrt {1 + \paren {\frac {\d y} {\d u} } ^2} \rd u\) differentiating both sides with respect to $x$
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds \sqrt {1 + \paren {\frac {\d y} {\d x} }^2}\) Fundamental Theorem of Calculus: First Part