I covered hyperbolic trigonometric functions in a recent maths course. However I was never presented with any reasons as to why (or even if) they are useful.
Is there any good examples of their uses outside academia?
I covered hyperbolic trigonometric functions in a recent maths course. However I was never presented with any reasons as to why (or even if) they are useful.
Is there any good examples of their uses outside academia?
If you take a rope, fix the two ends, and let it hang under the force of gravity, it will naturally form a hyperbolic cosine curve.
The catenary has been mentioned a number of times, but apparently not the corresponding surface of revolution, the catenoid. It and the plane are the only surfaces of revolution that have zero mean curvature (i.e. they are minimal surfaces). This surface is the form a soap bubble (approximately) takes when it is stretched across two rings:
(image from here)
On a map using the Mercator projection, the relationship between the latitude L of a point and its y coordinate on the map is given by $y = \operatorname{arctanh}(\sin(L))$, where $\operatorname{arctanh}$ is the inverse of the hyperbolic tangent function.
Velocity addition in (special) relativity is not linear, but becomes linear when expressed in terms of hyperbolic tangent functions.
More precisely, if you add two motions in the same direction, such as a man walking at velocity $v_1$ on a train that moves at $v_2$ relative to the ground, the velocity $v$ of the man relative to ground is not $v_1 + v_2$; velocities don't add (otherwise by adding enough of them you could exceed the speed of light). What does add is the inverse hyperbolic tangent of the velocities (in speed-of-light units, i.e., $v/c$).
$$\tanh^{-1}(v/c)=\tanh^{-1}(v_1/c) + \tanh^{-1}(v_2/c)$$
This is one way of deriving special relativity: assume that a velocity addition formula holds, respecting a maximum speed of light and some other assumptions, and show that it has to be the above.
The hyperbolic tangent is also related to what's called the Logistic function:
$L(x)=\frac{1}{1+e^{-x}}=\frac{1+\tanh(\frac{x}{2})}{2}$
Among many uses and applications of the logistic function/hyperbolic tangent there are:
Moving on to $\cosh (x)$, it also has some nice use-cases:
I don't know if you consider General Relativity "outside acadamia"(and I don't care to argue the point!) but if you do,
the group of symmetries with respect to the Lorentzian Metric can be written as Matrices containing hyperbolic trig functions as elements.
Note Kenny's comment.
If a pendulum oscillates near its stable equilibrium, the equation of motion is $x''=-\omega^2 x$, and the solution is any linear combination of $\sin\omega t$ and $\cos\omega t$. If the pendulum has a stiff arm (rather than a string), then there is a second, unstable equilibrium, where it's straight up. This is like balancing a pencil on its tip. The equation of motion is $x''=\omega^2 x$, and the solution is any linear combination of $\sinh\omega t$ and $\cosh\omega t$.
Many kinds of nonlinear PDE have wave solutions explicitly expressed using hyperbolic tangents and secants: shock-wave profiles, solitons, reaction-diffusion fronts, and phase-transition fronts, for starters.
An equation for a catenary curve can be given in terms of hyperbolic cosine. Catenary curves appear in many places, such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO.
Most curves that look parabolic are actually Catenaries, which is based in the hyperbolic cosine function. A good example of a Catenary would be the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, Missouri.
The tractrix, which is based in the hyperbolic secant, is also known as the pursuit curve, which models objects like cargo trucks turning corners, or a dog on a porch starting to chase a car in the street.