Radians are a unit that measure angles. A full rotation in radians is equal to (tau) radians, where the constant is approximately equal to . Radians are the preferred unit for measuring angles, as opposed to degrees, since they lead to “more succinct and elegant formulas throughout mathematics".
A radian angle is equivalent to the ratio of the arc-length over the radius of the circle. By design, the unit is “dimensionless” or, in plain language, the length of the radius is arbitrary; one radian is equal to the amount of rotation required to travel the length of one radius along the circumference of the circle. The symbol (equivalent) is used to indicate that negative angles or angles more than a full rotation are mapped to the equivalent angle between and a full rotation.
This “radius-invariant” property plays an important role for why radians are the preferred unit for measuring angles. See radians vs. degrees.
The radian system is used in many places in mathematics: measuring angles, numerous geometric and advanced math formulas via the circle constant, and as the unit of choice for the trigonometric functions.
Without the circle constant, angles measured in radians can be confusing. Take for example, the figures figure 4 and figure 5 showing measured angles of 1 radians and 2 radians. Both figures draw tic marks at the numeric values of radians, which conceptually demonstrates what a radian is. However, as we will later see it is much more convenient to use a constant.
Angles measured using radians are expressed as a fraction of “one turn” where one turn is equal to the circle constant (tau). By convention, angles in the
XY coordinate plane are measured from the positive direction where the counter-clockwise rotation is positive.
This is where the circle constant plays a crucial role in making the radians system complete; angles can easily be expressed as fractions of the whole. As figure 6 and figure 7 illustrate, the circle can be divided into equal parts and using the circle constant constant leads to elegant and succinct notation.
As a final note on measuring angles, here are some “special angles” that show up in numerous places. The figure also illustrates why circle constant is also the best method for converting between radians and degrees
Shown below are some special angles measured using radians. Note, the symbol (theta) is often used to represent a measured angle.
Radians appear in numerous geometric formulas and advanced formulas in mathematics via the circle constant or or alternatively through the constant . Shown below are some common geometric formulas. Note, very likely you have seen the constant used insted of This website primarily uses instead of in equations and formulas as it is the better constant. The relation can be used to translate between the two constants.
The area of a circle is give by one-half multiplied by τ (tau) mutliplied by the radius of the circle squared.
The circumference of a circle is given the constant τ (tau) multpilied by the radius of the circle, where τ = 2π.
The volume of a sphere is given by two-thirds multiplied by the circle constant τ (tau) multiplied by the radius cubed.
The circle constant also appears in some suprising places such as the definition of the normal distribution. When is present, there usually is some connection to circles or a circular way of thinking.
The trigonometric functions and the unit circle are often where radians are introduced. Some programming languages and spreadsheet applications only offer the trigonometric functions implemented using the radian system. This is discussed in more detail on the individual function pages, but shown below are two figures which graph the two functions using the radian system.
There are two systems for measuring degrees in math: degrees and radians. The short answer for why radians are preferred is that the radian system leads to more succinct and elegant formulas throughout mathematics . For example, the derivative of the sine function is only true when the angle is expressed in radians.
See the long answer for why radians are preferred on this page.
To convert an angle from radians to degrees multiply by the ratio of over radians .
Radians Versus DegreesWumbo (internal)
Approximate the Circle ConstantWumbo (internal)
Convert Angle from Radians to DegreesWumbo (internal)
No, really, pi is wrong: The Tau ManifestoMichael Hartl