This figure shows a finite portion of a hyperbolic paraboloid. Its equation is fairly simple, namely z = xy. Thus, it is a smooth quadric surface. In multivariable calculus, it appears as graph of the function f(x,y) = xy. This is the most basic example of a function which has a critical point where the second derivative test shows that the function has neither a local maximum nor a local minimum. Of course, this is directly related to the "saddle shaped" appearance of the surface.
Another interesting property of this surface is that it is a ruled surface. By definition, a ruled surface contains an infinite family of straight lines. In fact, a smooth quadric surface contains two families of straight lines. In our figure, this property is reflected in the checkerboard pattern used to color the surface. Click here to see:
A few buildings have been constructed with a roof in the shape of a hyperbolic paraboloid. Click here to see pictures of one of these.
The other smooth quadric ruled surface, the hyperboloid of one sheet, also contains two 1-parameter families of lines.
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I made the figure on this page by substituting my own data in a Geometry Center webpage.
Prof. Joel Roberts
School of Mathematics
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Office: 351 Vincent Hall
Phone: (612) 625-1076
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