sin(x) + cos(x)
Here is a fun little exploration involving a simple sum of trigonometric functions.
Consider f(x) = sin(x) + cos(x), graphed below.
Surprisingly, it appears as though sin(x) + cos(x) is itself a sine function. And while its period is the same as sin(x), its amplitude has changed and it’s been phase-shifted. Figuring out the exact amplitude and phase shift is fun, and it’s also part of a deeper phenomenon to explore.
Consider the function g(x) = a sin(x) + b cos(x). Playing around with the values of a and b is a great way to explore the situation.
On the way to a complete solution, a nice challenge is to find (and characterize) the values of a and b that make the amplitude of g(x) equal to one. It’s also fun to look for values of a and b that yield integer amplitudes: for example, 5sin(x) + 12cos(x) has amplitude 13, and 4sin(x) + 3cos(x) has amplitude 5.
Ultimately, this exploration leads to a really lovely application of angle sum formulas. Recall that
If we let A = x, we get
With a little rewriting, we have
which looks similar to our original function f(x) = sin(x) + cos(x), except for what’s in front of sin(x) and cos(x). We handle that with a clever choice of B.
Let . Now we have
And a little algebra gets us
And so sin(x) + cos(x) really is a sine function! Not only does this transformation explain the amplitude and phase shift of sin(x) + cos(x), it generalizes beautifully.
For example, consider 5sin(x) + 12cos(x). We can rewrite this in the following way.
There’s quite a lot of trigonometric fun packed into this little sum. And there’s still more to do, like exploring different phase shifts and trying the cosine angle sum formula instead. Enjoy!