I am having an issue with Tikz. Here is the code:


% Variables

%Celestial bodies
\draw [thick, fill=yellow] (0,0) circle (1);
\draw [thick, fill=cyan] (\R,0) circle (0.25);

% Lagrangian points
\node at (\R*{1-{\mu/3}^{1/3}},0) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L1
\node at (\R*{1+{\mu/3}^{1/3}},0) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L2
\node at (-\R*{1+5/12*\mu},0) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L3
\node at (\R*{1/2*{1-2*\mu}},\R*sqrt(3)/2) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L4
\node at (\R*{1/2*{1-2*\mu}},-\R*sqrt(3)/2) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L5


Here is the error I get:

! Missing number, treated as zero.
<to be read again>
l.87 \node at (\R*{1-{\mu/3}^{1/3}},0)
{\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L1
A number should have been here; I inserted `0'.

I see this is a common error with Tikz but I can't find out why it doesn't work. It is propably a silly mistake, can someone tell me what's wrong ?

  • 1
    Off topic: I don’t think that it is a good idea to use \def to define macros that are already existing. – Jasper Habicht Mar 6 '18 at 22:32
  • You mean I can simply put mu=0.1 and R=10 ? Or do you mean I have to use another method ? – Loïc Poncin Mar 6 '18 at 22:35
  • No, you cannot. I mean that you should use other macro names, since \mu is already defined representing µ. If you overwrite it, you cannot use it for its original purpose any more. – Jasper Habicht Mar 6 '18 at 22:39
  • Ah ok I understand, I will change that then. Thank you ! – Loïc Poncin Mar 6 '18 at 22:40

There were three problems:

  1. If you are doing a calculation in a coordinate you must enclose it1 with braces: ({\R*sqrt(3)},0)

  2. Inside an operation, you group with parentheses, not braces.

Fixed code:




% Variables

%Celestial bodies
\draw [thick, fill=yellow] (0,0) circle (1);
\draw [thick, fill=cyan] (\R,0) circle (0.25);

\node at ({\R*(1-(\muu/3)^(1/3))},0) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L1
\node at ({\R*(1+(\muu/3)^(1/3))},0) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L2
\node at ({-\R*(1+5/12*\muu)},0) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L3
\node at ({\R*(1/2*(1-2*\muu))},{\R*sqrt(3)/2}) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L4
\node at ({\R*(1/2*(1-2*\muu))},{-\R*sqrt(3)/2}) {\color{orange}{\huge$\bullet$}}; %L5


The third problem:

As Jasper said, avoid using \def, unless you are absolutely sure of what you're doing. The \mu you are defining already exists (the greek letter μ).

If you use \newcommand instead, LaTeX will tell you that you are redefining an existing macro.

1 That's not the whole story. When TikZ finds a ( it understands that it's reading a coordinate. It also expects that the next ) will end the coordinate.

So when TikZ finds (\R*sqrt(3),0), it understands \R*sqrt(3 as the coordinate, which is bad, and still, it gets a ,0) after, which is worse. But when you group the expression inside braces, everything inside the {...} will be treated as a single token, which will be passed to the math interpreter to do its job.

So whenever you have expressions with parentheses, you have to hide them inside {...}. Although its no harm to enclose an expression without parentheses too.

Thanks to @hpekristiansen for pointing that out!

  • Awesome thank you ! So I juste have to add {...} around the math expression ? What did you edit out \usetikzlibrary{calc} ? – Loïc Poncin Mar 6 '18 at 22:33
  • @LoïcPoncin You have to add the {...} around the math expression and group the operations with (...) (you was grouping with {...}). I included the \usetikzlibrary{calc} at first, but then I realised that it is not necessary for this example, so I removed it. – Phelype Oleinik Mar 6 '18 at 22:36
  • @PhelypeOleinik, I have to mention that you are a little bit lucky... Any greek character that defined by \namecommand has an uppercase defined by \Namecommand... In this case uppercase \mu happens to be same as latin M and so is not defined as \Mu... – koleygr Mar 6 '18 at 22:45
  • 1
    For safety I would use \MU or \muu insrtead... (Someone could use a command to upercase greek letters in math mode...) Any way... (+1) – koleygr Mar 6 '18 at 22:54
  • 2
    "you must enclose it with braces" is not entirely true the real explanation can be read here : tex.stackexchange.com/a/31833/8650 – hpekristiansen Mar 6 '18 at 23:34

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