# The antiderivative of 1/(x^4+1): Part 8

In the course of evaluating the antiderivative

$\displaystyle \int \frac{1}{x^4 + 1} dx$,

I’ve accidentally stumbled on a very curious looking trigonometric identity:

$\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x \sqrt{2} + 1) = \tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right) -\pi$ if $x < -1$,

$\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x \sqrt{2} + 1) = \tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right)$ if $-1 < x < 1$,

$\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x \sqrt{2} + 1) = \tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right) + \pi$ if $x> 1$.

The extra $-\pi$ and $\pi$ are important. Without them, the graphs of the left-hand side and right-hand sides are clearly different if $x < -1$ or $x > 1$:

However, they match when those constants are included:

Let’s see if I can explain why this trigonometric identity occurs without resorting to the graphs.

Since $\tan^{-1} x$ assumes values between $-\pi/2$ and $\pi/2$, I know that

$-\displaystyle \frac{\pi}{2} < \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) < \frac{\pi}{2}$,

$-\displaystyle \frac{\pi}{2} < \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} + 1 ) < \frac{\pi}{2}$,

and so

$-\pi< \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} + 1 ) < \pi$.

However,

$-\displaystyle \frac{\pi}{2} < \tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right) < \frac{\pi}{2}$,

and so $\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} + 1 )$ and $\tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right)$ must differ if $\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} + 1)$ is in the interval $[-\pi,-\pi/2]$ or in the interval $[\pi/2,\pi]$.

I also notice that

$-\pi< \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} + 1 ) < \pi$,

$-\displaystyle \frac{\pi}{2} < -\tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right) < \frac{\pi}{2}$,

and so

$-\displaystyle \frac{3\pi}{2} < \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} + 1 )-\tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right) < \frac{3\pi}{2}$.

However, this difference can only be equal to a multiple of $\pi$, and there are only three multiples of $\pi$ in the interval $\displaystyle \left( -\frac{3\pi}{2}, \frac{3\pi}{2} \right)$, namely $-\pi$, $0$, and $\pi$.

To determine the values of $x$ where this happens, I also note that $f_1(x) = x \sqrt{2} - 1$, $f_2(x) = x \sqrt{2} + 1$, and $f_3(x) = \tan^{-1} x$ are increasing functions, and so $f(x) = \tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x \sqrt{2} + 1)$ must also be an increasing function. Therefore, to determine where $f(x)$ lies in the interval $[\pi/2,\pi]$,it suffices to determine the unique value $x_1$ so that $f(x_1) = \pi/2$. Likewise, to determine where $f(x)$ lies in the interval $[-\pi,-\pi/2]$,it suffices to determine the unique value $x_2$ so that $f(x_2) = -\pi/2$.

In summary, I have shown so far that

$\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x \sqrt{2} + 1) = \tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right) -\pi$ if $x < x_2$,

$\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x \sqrt{2} + 1) = \tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right)$ if $x_2 < x < x_1$,

$\tan^{-1} ( x\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x \sqrt{2} + 1) = \tan^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{x \sqrt{2}}{1 - x^2} \right) + \pi$ if $x> x_1$,

where $x_1$ and $x_2$ are the unique values so that

$\tan^{-1} ( x_1\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x_1 \sqrt{2} + 1) = \displaystyle \frac{\pi}{2}$,

$\tan^{-1} ( x_2\sqrt{2} - 1 ) + \tan^{-1}( x_2 \sqrt{2} + 1) = -\displaystyle \frac{\pi}{2}$.

So, to complete the proof of the trigonometric identity, I need to show that $x_1 = 1$ and $x_2 = -1$. I will do this in tomorrow’s post.

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