In order to measure the length of a curve, such as the road on a map, a Curvometers. wheel is rolled along it. For one revolution of the wheel the path described by its point of contact is equal to the circumference of the wheel. Thus, if a cyclist counts the number of revolutions of his front wheel he can calculate the distance ridden by multiplying that number by the circumference of the wheel. An ordinary cyclometer is nothing but an arrangement for counting these revolutions, but it is graduated in such a manner that it gives at once the distance in miles. On the same principle depend a number of instruments which, under various fancy names, serve to measure the length of any curve; they are in the shape of a small meter chiefly for the use of cyclists. They all have a small wheel which is rolled along the curve to be measured, and this sets a hand in motion which gives the reading on a dial. Their accuracy is not very great, because it is difficult to place the wheel so on the paper that the point of contact lies exactly over a given point; the beginning and end of the readings are therefore badly defined. Besides, it is not easy to guide the wheel along the curve to which it should always lie tangentially.

To obviate this defect more complicated curvometers or kartometers have been devised. The handiest seems to be that of G. Coradi. He uses two wheels; the tracing-point, halfway between them, is guided along the curve, the line joining the wheels being kept normal to the curve. This is pretty easily done by eye; a constant deviation of 8° from this direction produces an error of only 1%. The sum of the two readings gives the length. E. Fleischhauer uses three, five or more wheels arranged symmetrically round a tracer whose point is guided along the curve; the planes of the wheels all pass through the tracer, and the wheels can only turn in one direction. The sum of the readings of all the wheels gives approximately the length of the curve, the approximation increasing with the number of the wheels used. It is stated that with three wheels practically useful results can be obtained, although in this case the error, if the instrument is consistently handled so as always to produce the greatest inaccuracy, may be as much as 5%.

Fig. 5.  Amsler's Planimeter. Fig. 5.

Planimeters are instruments for the determination by mechanical means of the area of any figure. A pointer, generally called the Planimeters. "tracer," is guided round the boundary of the figure, and then the area is read off on the recording apparatus of the instrument. The simplest and most useful is Amsler's (fig. 5). It consists of two bars of metal OQ and QT, which are hinged together at Q. At O is a needle-point which is driven into the drawing-board, and at T is the tracer. As this is guided round the boundary of the figure a wheel W mounted on QT rolls on the paper, and the turning of this wheel measures, to some known scale, the area. We shall give the theory of this instrument fully in an elementary manner by aid of geometry. The theory of other planimeters can then be easily understood.

Fig. 6.  Theory of Planimeter. Fig. 6.

Consider the rod QT with the wheel W, without the arm OQ. Let it be placed with the wheel on the paper, and now moved perpendicular to itself from AC to BD (fig. 6). The rod sweeps over, or generates, the area of the rectangle ACDB = lp, where l denotes the length of the rod and p the distance AB through which it has been moved. This distance, as measured by the rolling of the wheel, which acts as a curvometer, will be called the "roll" of the wheel and be denoted by w. In this case p = w, and the area P is given by P = wl. Let the circumference of the wheel be divided into say a hundred equal parts u; then w registers the number of u's rolled over, and w therefore gives the number of areas lu contained in the rectangle. By suitably selecting the radius of the wheel and the length l, this area lu may be any convenient unit, say a square inch or square centimetre. By changing l the unit will be changed.

Fig. 7.  Theory of Planimeter. Fig. 7.

Again, suppose the rod to turn (fig. 7) about the end Q, then it will describe an arc of a circle, and the rod will generate an area ½l²θ, where θ is the angle AQB through which the rod has turned. The wheel will roll over an arc cθ, where c is the distance of the wheel from Q. The "roll" is now w = cθ; hence the area generated is

P =1

and is again determined by w.

Fig. 8.  Theory of Planimeter. Fig. 8.

Next let the rod be moved parallel to itself, but in a direction not perpendicular to itself (fig. 8). The wheel will now not simply roll. Consider a small motion of the rod from QT to Q′T′. This may be resolved into the motion to RR′ perpendicular to the rod, whereby the rectangle QTR′R is generated, and the sliding of the rod along itself from RR′ to Q′T′. During this second step no area will be generated. During the first step the roll of the wheel will be QR, whilst during the second step there will be no roll at all. The roll of the wheel will therefore measure the area of the rectangle which equals the parallelogram QTT′Q′. If the whole motion of the rod be considered as made up of a very great number of small steps, each resolved as stated, it will be seen that the roll again measures the area generated. But it has to be noticed that now the wheel does not only roll, but also slips, over the paper. This, as will be pointed out later, may introduce an error in the reading.