A helix is defined as a spiral that also has a linear dependence upon a third dimension. Found both within nature and within the man-made world, examples of helices include springs, coils and spiral staircases. The length of a helix can be calculated using a simple formula.

Write down the quantities that define the helix. A helix can be defined by three quantities: the radius, the rise of the helix in one revolution and the number of turns. For this example, we will define the following symbols:

r = radius

H = Rise of helix in one revolution

N = Number of turns

Calculate the length associated with one turn within the helix. To do this use the following formula:

L = (H^2 + C^2)^(0.5)

In this nomenclature, H^2 means "H multiplied by H" or "H squared." C is the circumference of the circle and is equal to :

C = 2 x 3.145 x R

For example, if a spiral staircase has a radius of 1 meter, then the circumference is equal to :

C = 2 x 3.145 x 1 = 6.29 meters

If the staircase rises by approximately 2 meters after each turn (H=2) then the length associated with one turn around the staircase is:

L = (2^2 + 6.29^2)^(0.5) = (4 + 39.6)^(0.5) = 6.60 meters.

Calculate the total helical length (T). To do this use the formula:

T = NL

Following the example, if the staircase has 10 turns:

T = 10 x 6.60 = 66 meters

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