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I'm not to clear about this either. Seems like he's 'sketching' to arrive at an estimated 's' point.

Zeta is
used to get a definite angle from imaginary axis, but the intersection with the plot appears to be
estimated.
After digging around a bit, it looks like he's using the "magnitude criterion" to solve for K, but
that's after he's chosen the s point on the plot. BTW... Here's a link that helped me to better
understand the magnitude criterion:
http://www.cambridge.org/us/features/chau/webnotes/chap7rlocus.pdf
Also, I was able to get the answer using straight math and some limited knowledge of how second
order systems behave.
A common form for a 2nd order characteristic eq is...
s^2 + 2*zeta*wn*s + wn^2 = 0
Where wn is undamped natural freq.
I manipulated the characteristic eq for this specific problem into the form above and came up with this:
s^2 + 2*K*s + (4*K + 1) = 0
So, by observation...
2*zeta*wn = 2*K
and...
wn^2 = 4*K + 1
Combine the two equations above, plug in the zeta=0.5 value and you can get a quadratic in wn. It
starts to crumble quickly at that point. Just use the quadratic formula to solve for wn, and then back
solve for K. You'll get two possibilities, but one is negative so you can throw it out.
This works find, but I'd be lost in a higher order scenario. I guess the only alternative at that point is to
estimate a 's' point based on angle obtained from zeta?