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Math Help - Train word problem (possibly involving law of cosines?)

  1. #1
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    Train word problem (possibly involving law of cosines?)

    Answered, thanks!
    Last edited by bob9171; November 8th 2007 at 01:10 PM.
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  2. #2
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    You are correct. It involves the Law of Cosines.

    After t hours,
    One train travelled 90t miles.
    The other, 75t miles.

    When they are 400 miles apart, you figure an obtuse triangle with 130 degrees between 90t and 75t, and opposite the 400mi side. By Law of Cosines,
    400^2 = (90t)^2 +(75t)^2 -2(90t)(75t)cos(130deg)
    160,000 = 8100t^2 +5625t^2 -(-8677.63t^2)
    160,000 = 22,402.63t^2
    t^2 = 160,000 / 22,402.63 = 7.142
    t = sqrt(7.142) = 2.67 hours.

    Therefore, after 2.67 or 2 and 2/3 hours, the trais are 400mi apart. -----answer.
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  3. #3
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    Hmm.. I was under the impression that you couldn't use the rates (90 and 75 mph) as the side lengths as they aren't distances. Thanks for the help though.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob9171 View Post
    Hmm.. I was under the impression that you couldn't use the rates (90 and 75 mph) as the side lengths as they aren't distances. Thanks for the help though.
    As shown in my solution, the sides of the triangle are 90t miles, 75t miles and 400 miles. They are all in miles, all in "lengths".

    distance = rate*time

    After t hours,
    distance = 90mph *(t hrs) = 90t miles.

    Your impression is correct. You cannot use rates as sides of the triangle here because the 400 miles is not a rate.
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