# $\operatorname{arctan}$ with two arguments

When inverting the polar coordinates, one needs the arc tan function  (http://planetmath.org/CyclometricFunctions) $\arctan$ with two arguments   . If $(x,y)\in\mathbbmss{R}^{2}\setminus\{0\}$, then $\arctan(x,y)$ is defined as the angle $(x,y)$ makes with the positive $x$-axis.

One usually sees expressions like $\arctan(y/x)$, which is equal to $\arctan(x,y)$ when $(x,y)$ is in the first quadrant  . However, $\arctan(y/x)$ does not give the correct angle when $(x,y)$ is in the third quadrant (since $y/x=(-y)/(-x)$). Also, the quotient $y/x$ involves a division by zero when $x=0$, which is damaging both numerically and mathematically.

In most mathematical software and programming languages the two-argument $\arctan$ is directly implemented.

In Python language  the functions atan(x) and atan2(x,y) are the respective one and two argument versions of $\arctan$. The point of having the two argument version is to determine the correct quadrant of the point. For instance, $1/1=1=-1/-1$, so atan(x) cannot distinguish between $(1,1)$ and $(-1,-1)$, but atan2(x,y) can, as the following Python code illustrates:

\PMlinkescapetext{
>>> from math import *
>>> print atan(1)
0.785398163397
>>> print atan2(1,1)
0.785398163397
>>> print atan2(-1,-1)
-2.3619449019
}


because $(1,1)$ has argument $\pi/4=0.7853\ldots$ but $(-1,-1)$ has argument $-3\pi/4=-2.3619\ldots$.

## Analytic properties

In mathematical works, $\arctan(x,y)$ is simply denoted by $\theta(x,y)$. The symbol $\theta$ obviously refers to the angle, but it is really the function $h_{2}$, where

 $g(r,\theta)=(r\cos\theta,r\sin\theta)\,,\quad h(x,y)=g^{-1}(x,y)=(r,\theta)\,.$

The function $g\colon\mathbbmss{R}^{2}\to\mathbbmss{R}^{2}$ is the polar-to-Cartesian coordinate transformation  . By the inverse function theorem  , the function $h$ (the Cartesian-to-polar coordinate transformation) exists and is smooth wherever it is defined. Note that $h$ cannot be defined continuously everywhere, because of the multi-valued nature of $\theta$$(r,\theta)$ and $(r,\theta+2\pi n)$ always map to the same point under $g$. (Similarly, $\theta$ cannot defined when $r=\sqrt{x^{2}+y^{2}}=0$.) This means, if one chases a loop (say a circle) around the origin, $\theta$ would move from $0$ to $2\pi$, even though the image point $g(r,\theta)$ winds back to the starting point.

Technically, a “largest” possible domain of $h$ (and $\theta$) can only be taken to be some simply connected open subset of $\mathbbmss{R}^{2}\setminus\{0\}$. (Note: $\mathbbmss{R}^{2}\setminus\{0\}$ itself is not simply connected.) For example, such a domain might be $\mathbbmss{R}^{2}\setminus\{(x,y):x\leq 0\}$, i.e. delete the negative real axis from $\mathbbmss{R}^{2}$.

The exterior derivative of $\theta$ is

 $d\theta=\frac{-y}{x^{2}+y^{2}}\,dx+\frac{x}{x^{2}+y^{2}}\,dy\,,$
 $\frac{\partial\theta}{\partial x}=\frac{-y}{x^{2}+y^{2}}\,,\quad\frac{\partial% \theta}{\partial y}=\frac{x}{x^{2}+y^{2}}$

(which can also be found by differentiating $\arctan(y/x)$ directly and piecing the results for each quadrant).

Of course, the formulas   above are only valid wherever $\theta$ is defined, but the analytical expressions do not change no matter which domain of definition is taken for $\theta$. This allows for the following neat formula to find the total variation  of angle of a smooth curve $\gamma\colon[a,b]\to\mathbbmss{R}^{2}\setminus\{0\}$:

 $\int_{\gamma}d\theta=\int_{a}^{b}\gamma^{*}d\theta=\int_{a}^{b}\left(\frac{-y% \dot{x}}{x^{2}+y^{2}}+\frac{x\dot{y}}{x^{2}+y^{2}}\right)\,dt\,.$

For example, if $\gamma(t)=(r\cos t,r\sin t)$, for $t\in[0,2\pi n]$, is the circle that winds around the origin $n$ times, then $\int_{\gamma}d\theta=2\pi n$.

Title $\operatorname{arctan}$ with two arguments operatornamearcTanWithTwoArguments 2013-03-22 15:18:19 2013-03-22 15:18:19 matte (1858) matte (1858) 11 matte (1858) Definition msc 51M04 msc 51-01 angle function