Talk:Heron's formula

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Order of variables[edit]

how does making a>b>c change the formula? i can't see how it influences it.

It changes the stability of the numerical compuation on a floating-point processor. In the limit case of needle triangles, where one side is very small, you want that side to be 'c' in the formula. In perfect real-number computation it doesn't make any difference, of course, but if you're not worried about numerical stability, you wouldn't use this version of the formula anyway; you'd just use the millenia-old original one. --Delirium 05:51, 9 November 2005 (UTC)
It would seem to be the unique parenthesization minimizing the intermediate results while keeping them all nonnegative, subject of course to the triangle inequality. As such it never uses addition when subtraction is possible. However I'd be interested to see an example where (a+b)+c is less accurate than a+(b+c). --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 20:42, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

When did Heron, otherwise known as Hero discover the fomula?

The article says in the 1st century A.D. Do you need a date? --Gesslein 14:22, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

It would be nice but my homework is due in tomorow so you prob. won't tell me in time. I'm sure 1st Century AD is enough (hopefully). :D Jess

I don't have a date, probably sometime near 50 A.D. it was published. --Gesslein 19:13, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

The section "Ch'in Chiu-shao's fomula" really belongs to the history section. Most of it doesn't add to Heron's formula and can be found on Ch'in Chiu-shao’s. The sentence "This fomula was proved recently by Wu Wenjun" is very strange! Anyone can say were did it came from? Anyway I am deleting this section and making the appropriate changes. Ricardo sandoval 05:19, 9 July 2007 (UTC)


is another name for this formula Hero's Formula? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:57, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Yes, Hero's Formula and Heron's Formula are the same. The spellings "Hero of Alexandria" and "Heron of Alexandria" are both used, and neither is correct, although the Greek language purists would probably prefer the version with the n. --♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 08:11, 27 November 2007 (UTC)
Properly he is Hero in English, not Heron. Just as it is Plato and Meno. I have no idea of the history of this in math circles, but the name is very definitely Hero. If this were in Greek, we could worry about those purists, but even classicists say Hero. Eponymous-Archon (talk) 02:27, 24 March 2014 (UTC)
For anyone who is interested, the situation is as follows. In Greek, the name is Ἡρων, which transliterates into the Latin alphabet as Hērōn. Latin, being reasonably closely related to Greek, had a noun declension recognisably related to the Greek declension that included the name Hērōn. However, at an early stage of development of the Latin language, the n at the end of the nominative case was lost. Romans tended to use a Latinised form of Greek names of this type, in which the n was omitted, by analogy with Latin words in the corresponding declension. Cases other than the nominative retained the n, so that for example the genitive was Heronis. The name "Hero" was in this respect treated in exactly the same way as many other Greek names, such as Plato. In English, it has long been common practice to use ancient Greek names in their Latinised form, thus we refer to Plato, and not Platon, but this is not universal, and some ancient Greek names are used in a form which is a direct transcription of the Greek, even when that differs from the Latin spelling. In the case of the name Ἡρων, both the Greek form Heron and the Latin form Hero have been widely used in English.
What about which form is "correct", or, as Eponymous-Archon puts it "proper"? It is possible to take the view that the Greek form is the "correct" one, since it is a Greek name. It is also possible to take the view that what is "correct" in language is defined by what is used and accepted, and since both forms are widely accepted, both are equally correct. I find it difficult to see, however, any justification for the view that "Hero" is in some sense more proper in English. The editor who uses the pseudonym "JamesBWatson" (talk) 12:48, 24 March 2014 (UTC)


There is an error in the expression that follows "Expressing Heron's formula with a determinant in terms of the squares of the distances between the three given vertices,". It is missing a necessary minus sign in front of the determinant and under the square root radical. See —Preceding unsigned comment added by BillFish321 (talkcontribs) 09:20, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

There is an error in the formula that discusses the equivalency of Heron's formula to that of the Chinese Qin Jiushao, published in A.D. 1247. As stated, the Chinese version does not give the correct value for the area of a general triangle in 3-space with edge lengths a,b,c.


Is it sensible to use A both for the area of the triangle and for the name of a vertex in the diagram. How about chnaging the diagram and all related text from ABCabc to PQRpqr? -- SGBailey (talk) 09:40, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

First formula has an oddity and so does the 2nd one.[edit]

Ok whoever wrote this didnt really know what they were doing in math, the formula sqrt(s(s-a)(s-b)(s-c)) does not seem equal to (sqrt((a+b+c)(a+b-c)(a-b+c)(-a+b+c))/4[pulled out of the sqrt sign for ease on the eyes]), but seems to work regardless. Can anyone explain this? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aliotra (talkcontribs) 19:29, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

It's fine. a+b+c = s/2, a+b-c = (s-c)/2, etc. Multiplying them all together puts 16 in the denominator, and then moving it outside the square root reduces it to 4. --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 20:10, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

Intrinsic nature of the formula[edit]

Is it worth mentioning in the article that Heron's formula is more natural than the standard formula, because it gives the area of the triangular plane region in terms of its boundary (which is intrinsic to the region (i.e. free of choice)), whereas the standard formula gives the area in terms of the height (which depends on the base and hence requires a choice)? It could be helpful (to students, at least) because the FTC, Stoke's theorem, the residue theorem etc., are formulated this way. Just a thought (I know I should be bold, but I'm not; I prefer collegiality to leadership).Aliotra (talk) 19:29, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

references for proofs[edit]

The article needs references for the proofs. Bubba73 You talkin' to me? 05:22, 30 October 2012 (UTC)


Great article - easy to read, easy to follow for all readers and full of interesting and useful information for the advanced reader.

If nobody objects, I would like to add the following examples (right after the start formulas):

Example: Let ΔABC be the triangle with sides a=7, b=4 and c=5.

The semiperimeter is:    ,
and the area is:  

Example: Let ΔABC be the triangle with sides a=3, b=4 and c=5.

The semiperimeter is:    ,
and the area is:  .
This is a right triangle, so the side b is also the height h to the base a. Using the standard formula for the area of a triangle, we confirm .

Two other notes:


  • Please change T back to A for area. I think this confuses the reader much, much more than the double use of the letter A as area and A as vertex, which is common everywhere.
  • Also, since another writer was also confused and these formulas are used in the secondary formulas and in both proofs, I might add a line like: *Here and in the proofs below we also use the alternative formulas for the semiperimeter: .

Technical: I personally think that using the smaller notation is much easier to read. See formulas in: [1]

Lfahlberg (talk) 06:31, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

a b c s A notes
3 4 5 6 6 right
5 5 8 9 12 isosceles
5 5 6 8 12 isosceles
6 8 10 12 24 right, 2× 3-4-5
4 13 15 16 24
5 12 13 15 30 right
9 10 17 18 36
3 25 26 27 36
7 15 20 21 42
10 10 16 18 48 isosceles, 2× 5-5-8
10 10 12 16 48 isosceles, 2× 5-5-6
9 12 15 18 54 right, 3× 3-4-5
13 13 24 25 60 isosceles
10 13 13 18 60 isosceles
8 15 17 20 60 right
6 25 29 30 60
11 13 20 22 66
5 29 30 32 72
13 14 15 21 84
10 17 21 24 84
8 29 35 36 84
7 24 25 28 84 right
12 17 25 27 90
4 51 53 54 90
12 16 20 24 96 right, 4× 3-4-5
8 26 30 32 96 2× 4-13-15
I think an example where all numbers are integers is easier to follow. This table lists all such non-degenerate triangles with area under 100 units. A 4-13-15 triangle is the smallest one which is not isosceles, degenerate or right-angled, so I've used it. cmɢʟeeτaʟκ 23:04, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

Sum of squares[edit]

Decora (talk · contribs) has today been trying to add a link to the disambiguation page sum of squares to the see-also section of this article, on the basis that some of the formulations of Heron's formula look like sums of squares. I disagree, for two reasons: (1) we should not be linking to disambiguation pages from articles, and (2) I think the connection is too indirect to be informative or helpful. Discussion? Other viewpoints? —David Eppstein (talk) 19:58, 8 September 2013 (UTC)

I agree with David Eppstein on both counts. If someone clicks the link to Sums of squares, the only thing of relevance they find there is a link back to here. Duoduoduo (talk) 23:44, 8 September 2013 (UTC)
Agreed with David Eppstein. If there is a valid reference/comparison, this would be something that could actually be sourced, documented, written, and then properly added to the mainspace article itself: a link to a disambiguation page should not be used to escape the necessity of constructively writing text or providing reliable third-party sources. In addition, WP:INTDAB defines quite plainly when and how disambiguation links are to be used, and this is not one of those times. besiegedtalk 04:22, 9 September 2013 (UTC)

LATEX error[edit]

Does anybody know how to fix the problem with multiline equations rendering the error code Failed to parse(unknown function '\begin')? Circlesareround (talk) 08:49, 9 February 2014 (UTC)

 Done The problem was caused by this edit, which was followed by this, which was apparently intended to be a revert of the previous edit, but which also removed one whit space character. I have no idea why that caused the problem, but the cure was easy: revert to the last version of the article before the problem occurred. JamesBWatson (talk) 10:44, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
One more point. The problem does not show up to anyone with their Wikipedia preferences set to use MathJax, which may be why the editor who caused the problem was not aware of it, and didn't correct it. This is the second time recently that I have come across mangling of mathematical formulas of this kind, and the other time the editor explicitly told me that he/she had been unaware of the problem for that reason. MathJax is described on the preferences page as "experimental", and perhaps someone involved in the experiment should be alerted to the problem. JamesBWatson (talk) 10:50, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
I have seen the same problem with multiline equations on other pages as well. There is in fact a very simple solution. Just choose Edit and then save the page without doing any edits whatsoever! That will fix the problem and the "edit" will not even show up in the log. Circlesareround (talk) 07:17, 10 February 2014 (UTC)
Probably all you really need to do is purge the page. You can do this under Preferences->Gadgets->Appearance: check the purge tab box, and then on top of every page you should see a tab labeled with a star that will purge the page. That gets rid of any cached copy and makes the Wikipedia servers recompute the page's appearance. There was a Wikipedia bug with image alignment that was recently fixed but that causes this; see WT:WPM for more discussion. —David Eppstein (talk) 07:23, 10 February 2014 (UTC)

Confusing variable names[edit]

Is there some reason why the figure at top right of page labels the angles alpha, beta, gamma, then the section "Trigonometric proof using the Law of cosine" labels them A, B, C, but the subsequent formulae label angle C with a caret on top (except not in the altitude formula)? Then again the formulae under "Trigonometric proof using the Law of cotangents" show angles as plain A, B, C, with no carets.

Maybe this caret is some notation system I'm not familiar with, but it seems gratuitous, given the other two angle notations previously introduced on the same page.

Also why is T chosen as the variable for Area, when virtually every other source uses A, or spells out Area? Is it because someone previously commented that it's confusing having "A" appear both for Area and for a vertex in the triangle (and also for an angle, if we're abandoning the greek letters introduced in the figure.)?

There actually is not a confusion relative to the vertex labels, since Area A is a variable and hence italicized. However, there is a confusion relative to the angle variables, since they too are italicized.

So, how about discard the vertex labels, since they aren't used, and stick with the greek angle names, and then A can be used for Area? Otherwise, how about spell out Area where needed? Using T for this quantity which, I claim, is almost universally known as A, is needlessly disorienting. Gwideman (talk) 07:34, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

Yes, the caret as an indicator of the size of an angle ("0.7 radians") as opposed to the angle itself ("these two lines meeting at a vertex") as opposed to the vertex itself ("this point, where you can see two lines meeting") is always confusing. (But not as bad as the old "m∠A" meaning the "measure of the angle A" notation that I was subjected to in junior high.) Be that as it may, I had attempted to use the same letter for both the vertex and the angle at that vertex, which required that I use the non-intuitive letter "T" for the area. I've been outvoted, and it's all for the better. Accordingly, I have uploaded a new picture, with the Greek letter for the angle. "A" is both a vertex and an area, but that's OK. "A=5" clearly refers to the area, not the vertex. SamHB (talk) 17:19, 30 March 2014 (UTC)

Proof section[edit]

I just reverted the unexplained blanking of the Proof section by an anonymous user. Normally this sort of thing isn't the cause for much comment. But in this case it caused me to wonder: is the proof section really helpful for this article? What useful information does it convey to the reader, beyond "this statement is true"? Where are the references for all these different proofs? Maybe removal was an improvement. Anyone else have an opinion here? —David Eppstein (talk) 17:14, 7 August 2014 (UTC)

The second proof is mine, and amounts to the only-if direction of a proof I published later in The College Journal of Mathematics in 2009, so I added a reference. The published proof is a fair bit shorter so it may be worth shortening the article's version to match. The if direction (Pythagoras from Heron) may also be worth mentioning. Not sure about the appropriateness of an editor referencing his own publications though. Vaughan Pratt (talk) 19:33, 9 August 2014 (UTC)
The idea in the proof you cite is not so similar to the one given in this article. Besides, I doubt the proof here is your proof. More likely, the proof here has been known longer than any living human on this planet have been alive. A changed the reference to a very similar proof that is much older than 2009. Circlesareround (talk) 11:28, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
You're right! I'd failed to notice that the version at , which I'd written in February 2008, had gradually morphed over time, starting in September 2012 with Tal physdancer's edit Subsequent edits removed other aspects of my proof, with the result being much closer to Raifaizen's original proof, which requires a lot more detailed algebraic manipulation than my proof.
Personally I'd prefer to see the section restored to the version immediately prior to Tal physdancer's 2012 edit, which doubled the amount of algebraic manipulation for no apparent reason. However in light of the evident conflict of interest I'm happy to leave the question of whether a short or long proof is preferable to others. Vaughan Pratt (talk) 04:48, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
On second thoughts Tal physdancer simply expanded what I'd assumed the reader could do on their own, so I guess that's ok. The subsequent edits were what eliminated my trick of factoring Heron as s(s-a) times (s-b)(s-c). Vaughan Pratt (talk) 04:56, 14 August 2014 (UTC)