Thanks for the thought provoking questions. Here's my two cents worth:
Does your spreadsheet calculate the Cat curve in the plane of the fabric? Or, does it calculate the curve in a vertical plane and then project it onto the fabric plane? If the latter, what angle between the fabric plane and vertical plane is assumed?”
Roger’s spreadsheet appears to present a curve in the same plane as the fabric. If you then project it from a vertical plane horizontally onto the angled plane of the fabric, the curve would no longer be a true catenary curve. For example, if the fabric was angled at 30deg from horizontal, the projected offset of each point along the new curve would be doubled (1/sin(30)). But that is not the same as a cat curve with twice the offset at mid span because you are mixing linier functions with hyperbolic functions. It’s kind of like mixing up the order of operation rules between addition, multiplication and exponents.
For practical purposes, it makes no difference. The test comparisons I’ve made were just a few thousandths of an inch different for a typical ridgeline and just a few tenths different using 10” and 20” of deflection. Roger’s spreadsheet makes a similar linier adjustment of .15346, but for our purposes here it doesn’t matter either. As Roger said, a smooth curve is what is most important.
Still, the math is interesting”. With an A-frame tarp made out of an ideal non-stretching material, supported on each apex by a guyline, and uniformly tensioned along two edges, I wonder what the optimal panel shape would be to most evenly distribute tension in the fabric.
I think that in the above scenario, a square panel would theoretically be the optimal shape. No curves are necessary because the theoretical fabric doesn’t stretch. The picture below helps illustrate the distribution of force throughout a panel. The stress throughout the square pannel appears more evenly distributed. Regardless of shape, the limiting factor is the concentration of force at the four corners.
Thanks for listening