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48
votes
7answers
3k views

How to treat differentials and infinitesimals?

In my Calculus class, my math teacher said that differentials such as $dx$ are not numbers, and should not be treated as such. In my physics class, it seems like we treat differentials exactly like ...
44
votes
3answers
4k views
29
votes
2answers
2k views

Rigorous underpinnings of infinitesimals in physics

Just as background, I should say I am a mathematics grad student who is trying to learn some physics. I've been reading "The Theoretical Minimum" by Susskind and Hrabovsky and on page 134, they ...
15
votes
3answers
885 views

Why there is a $\frac{1}{2}$ in the distance formula $d=\frac{1}{2}at^2$?

I'm preparing for my exam, but I have difficulties in perceiving why there is a $\frac{1}{2}$ in the distance formula $d=\frac{1}{2}at^2$?
10
votes
4answers
612 views

Electromagnetic field and continuous and differentiable vector fields

We have notions of derivative for a continuous and differentiable vector fields. The operations like curl,divergence etc. have well defined precise notions for these fields. We know electrostatic and ...
9
votes
1answer
373 views

Understanding Calculus Notation in Physics

I have just started a first-year calculus-based physics course about electromagnetism and waves. I am having trouble understanding what calculus notation means in the context of physics. Here is a ...
8
votes
5answers
41k views

How to get distance when acceleration is not constant?

I have a background in calculus but don't really know anything about physics. Forgive me if this is a really basic question. The equation for distance of an accelerating object with constant ...
8
votes
2answers
844 views

Three integrals in Peskin's Textbook

Peskin's QFT textbook 1.page 14 $$\int_0 ^\infty \mathrm{d}p\ p \sin px \ e^{-it\sqrt{p^2 +m^2}}$$ when $x^2\gg t^2$, how do I apply the method of stationary phase to get the book's answer. 2....
7
votes
1answer
503 views

I reached a result concerning displacement with quantized time intervals. Am I on to something?

A few days ago, I realized a similarity between distance with constant acceleration, $d = v_i t + 1/2 a t^2$, and the sum of integers up to n, $(n^2 + n)/2$. This came up again today when I decided to ...
7
votes
6answers
912 views

Is Newton's first law something real or a mathematical formalism?

Why do objects always 'tend' to move in straight lines? How come, everytime I see a curved path that an object takes, I can always say that the object tends to move in a straight line over 'small' ...
7
votes
4answers
413 views

Name this Mulltivariable Calculus Theorem

In Robert Wald's book General Relativity a multivariable calculus theorem is cited on page 16, which states: If $F:\mathbb{R}^n\mapsto \mathbb{R}$ is $C^{\infty}$ then for each $a=(a^1,...,a^n) \in ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Galilean transformation of wave equation

I have this general wave equation: \begin{equation} \dfrac{\partial^2 \psi}{\partial x^2}+\dfrac{\partial^2 \psi}{\partial y^2}-\dfrac{1}{c^2}\dfrac{\partial^2 \psi}{\partial t^2}=0 \end{equation} ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Application of Calculus in Physics

Why do we apply Calculus in Physics when most of the quantities are not continuous and are not symmetrical at all levels of magnification? Aren't most, if not all, forms of Matter and Energy discrete? ...
5
votes
3answers
940 views

What are the differences between the differential and integral forms of (e.g. Maxwell's) equations?

I would like to understand what has to be differential and integral form of the same function, for example the famous equations of James Clerk Maxwell: How to know where to apply each way? Excuse ...
5
votes
4answers
7k views

Divergence of $\frac{\hat{r}}{r^2}$

In David J. Griffiths's Introduction to Electrodynamics, the author gave the following problem in an exercise. Sketch the vector function $$ \vec{v} ~=~ \frac{\hat{r}}{r^2}, $$ and compute ...
5
votes
4answers
10k views

Wrong calculation of work done on a spring, how is it wrong?

So I would have thought that this would be how you derive the work on a spring: basically the same way you do with gravity and other contexts, use $$W=\vec{F}\cdot \vec{x}.$$ If you displace a spring ...
5
votes
5answers
555 views

Infinite series of derivatives of position when starting from rest

Suppose you have an object with zero for the value of all the derivatives of position. In order to get the object moving you would need to increase the value of the velocity from zero to some finite ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Is it safe to ignore derivatives of velocity w.r.t. position and vice versa?

In a certain textbook a function is given as: $$f=f(x(t))$$ And then this is differentiated w.r.t. $t$ to get: $$f_t=\dot{x}f_x$$ (Where the notation $f_u=df/du$, $f_{uu}=d^2f/du^2$, etc.) This ...
5
votes
2answers
163 views

Calculating Intensity/Strength of Vibration with 3DOF

I want to calculate the intensity/strength of vibration at a given location. I have measured the acceleration at this location, using an accelerometer. So my measures look for example like: ...
5
votes
1answer
226 views

Optimization of Bottle Rocket Water Level

My (entry-level) physics class is building bottle rockets, and we are competing to build the longest-flying bottle rocket. The rockets are filled partway (we get to decide how much to fill them) with ...
5
votes
1answer
135 views

What's the proper interpretation of canceling infinitesimals? [duplicate]

In most textbooks of physics I've found this demonstration of work-kinetic energy theorem: $$\begin{align} W &= \int_{x_{1}}^{x_{2}} F(x)\ dx \tag{1}\\ &= \int_{x_{1}}^{x_{2}} m\cdot a\ dx \...
4
votes
2answers
586 views

Check dimensions of the integral of a function

I and a colleague are arguing about the dimensions of: $$\int_0^x f(x) dx $$ in this particular case $[f(x)]=m^2/s^3$ and $[x]=m$. Does it follow that $[\int_0^x f(x) dx]=m^2/s^3$ or $[\int_0^x f(x)...
4
votes
2answers
599 views

A basic math identity often used in integrals [closed]

I'm just wondering about why $y_i=A_{ij}x_j$ implies $$d^Ny=|\det A|d^Nx.$$ I see that $\det A$ is the product of the eigenvalues of a diagonal matrix but still don't exactly see how. Please help.
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Can someone give an intuitive way of understanding why Gauss's law holds?

Gauss' Law of electrostatics is an amazing law. It is extremely useful (as far as problems framed for it are concerned :D. I do not have a real world-problem solving experience of using Gauss' Law). ...
4
votes
3answers
231 views

How empty of fuel are spacecraft booster rockets typically?

A recent XKCD What-if article mentions the situation where each additional kilogram of cargo to LEO requires an additional 1. 3 kilograms of fuel, which in turn requires fuel to carry (simplification)....
4
votes
3answers
218 views

Is $\dfrac{dx}{dt}$ a fraction or not?

I am new to calculus and during my mathematics class my sir defined $\dfrac{dx}{dt}$ as $$dx/dt=\lim_{t\to t_1}\dfrac{f(t)-f(t_1)}{t-t_1}$$ and my sir made a clear statement that $\dfrac{dx}{dt}$ ...
4
votes
1answer
125 views

Question about Matrix Integral

I am stuck with the technique details of KKN's paper . How to get formula (2.11) $$Z= \int \frac{d \phi }{ \rm{ Vol(G)}} \frac{1}{\rm{Det}(\rm{ad}(\phi)+\epsilon)} $$ from (2.10)? $$Z=\int \frac{d \...
4
votes
1answer
129 views

How is taking the average of an integral over an interval justified?

I have been studying classical mechanics. Often when going through a worked problem, I see a step where there is an integral from 0 to 2$\pi$ of $\sin^{2} \theta \ d\theta$. Instead of using the ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Newton's original proof of gravitation for non-point-mass objects

Suppose we have two bodies, one very large (Earth), and one very small (a cannon ball). If the cannon ball is some distance away from the Earth, to find out the force produced on the cannot ball, we ...
4
votes
0answers
91 views

On Cohomological Gauge theory Calculation

I am in trouble with calculation details of Witten's Two dimensional Gauge Theories Revisited. My questions is about (3.21) and (3.27). From section 3, we have $$\delta A_i=i\epsilon \psi_i\\ \delta \...
3
votes
4answers
122 views

Intuitive explanation of the half in the $\frac{1}{2}at^2$ distance equation?

The full equation $$ Xf = X_o + V_o t + \frac{at^2}{2} $$ is integrated from the velocity function (which was integrated from constant acceleration function), right? The problem is, I can't seem to ...
3
votes
1answer
437 views

$v^2 = 2ax$ or $v^2 = ax$?

As far as I am aware, $v^2 = 2ax$ is the formula to find the velocity in various questions. If kinetic energy = work, $$\frac{1}{2}mv^2=Fx$$ $$mv^2=2max$$ $$v^2=2ax$$ We use this formula to solve ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

Differentials in Spherical Shell - Maxwell Distribution

In explaining the Maxwell distribution of molecular speeds, my pchem textbook uses the following figure: We are basically trying to find the probability of having a particle with a speed $u$ between ...
3
votes
3answers
93 views

Why we use differential element to get general form? [closed]

When we study any physical system we use differential element to get an equation then integrate over specific period to get a general form. Why we don't get directly a general form without ...
3
votes
1answer
102 views

What is the physical cause that circulation on a closed surface is zero?

This is quoted from Feynman's Lectures: We would like to see what happens when the loop shrinks down to a point, so that surface boundary disappears - the surface becomes closed. Now, if the ...
3
votes
2answers
4k views

Why and when do we differentiate or integrate equations in physics? [closed]

I'm an engineering student and none of my professors ever explained why do we use derivations and/or integrations in physics. So I have this task, it goes like: The object is moving in a positive ...
3
votes
1answer
136 views

First variation of the action in relativistic notation - Landau & Lifshitz “Classical theory of fields”

In Landau & Lifshitz's book, Classical theory of fields, the action for a free particle is defined as: $$\tag{8.1} S= \int ^b _a {-mc \ \text d s}=0,$$ where $$\text d s=c\,\text d t\sqrt{1-\...
3
votes
4answers
343 views

Based on note, how fast is a stringed instrument's string oscillating?

to be quite honest, I have no idea where to start on this problem mathematically. However, it struck my curiosity and would love to know how it works on a mathematical level. the problem You have a ...
3
votes
1answer
53 views

How to set up line integral of electric field? Confused over notation

In multivariable calculus the line integrals was parameterized and denoted: $$ \int_C \mathbf{F} \bullet \, d\mathbf{r}=\int_D\mathbf{F}(\mathbf{r}(t)) \bullet \frac{d \mathbf{r}(t)}{dt} \, dt $$ ...
3
votes
1answer
77 views

Boson calculus and Maximum Weight State

I'm just going over a few past exams for tomorrow, and I've come across a question that I'm having quite a bit of difficulty with. Let $\left|0\right\rangle$ denote the Fock vacuum state so that $...
3
votes
1answer
294 views

Neglecting second order differentials

I am currently doing some Lorentz invariance exercises considering infinitesimal Lorentz transformations, and have been told to neglect second order differentials. It's not the first time I have come ...
3
votes
2answers
147 views

Why are some variables summed infinitesimally and others aren't?

This is something that has been bothering me and I hope the title kind of makes sense. It may be a stupid question but please be gentle. My question is, let's say we have current: $$I=\frac{dq}{dt}$$ ...
3
votes
0answers
502 views

Heat transfer from hot water through a copper pipe to oil in a tank

I want to build a geyser attached to a pump with copper tubing running into an oil tank. This is done because the oil solidifies at a temperature below 15 degrees Celsius. I have done a few ...
2
votes
3answers
562 views

Basic question about acceleration [duplicate]

Very basic question. Please show where I'm wrong in the following reasoning. The movement of an object in function of time could be described as $$ x(t) = v t + x_{i} $$ if velocity is constant. If ...
2
votes
4answers
2k views

Electric Field due to a disk of charge. (Problem in derivation)

This might be a really silly question, but I don't understand it. In finding the electric field due to a thin disk of charge, we use the known result of the field due to a ring of charge and then ...
2
votes
2answers
126 views

Integration of 3-momentum

During a lecture that I missed, I was trapped when the lecturer uses the relation $$dp_x~ dp_y ~dp_z ~=~d^3\mathbf{p} ~=~ 4\pi p^2 dp.$$ Can I know how is this relation derived please?
2
votes
2answers
11k views

Derive vector gradient in spherical coordinates from first principles

Trying to understand where the $\frac{1}{r sin(\theta)}$ and $1/r$ bits come in the definition of gradient. I've derived the spherical unit vectors but now I don't understand how to transform ...
2
votes
1answer
233 views

Insight into Torricelli's Equation ($v^2=u^2+2as$) [closed]

Torricelli's Equation ($v^2=u^2+2as$) is usually presented as the particular formulation of the SUVAT system which doesn't involve t. It is derived from the others using some (perhaps well-motivated) ...
2
votes
3answers
497 views

Problem in deducing the equations of motion using indefinite integral

As we know, antiderivative or indefinite integral is the function the derivative of which gives the actual function. Let $F(x)$ be the derivative of $f(x)$ ie. the instantaneous rate of change of $f(...
2
votes
1answer
255 views

Landau's derivation of a free particle's kinetic energy- expansion of a function?

I was reading a bit of Landau and Lifshitz's Mechanics the other day and ran into the following part, where the authors are about to derive the kinetic energy of a free particle. They use the fact ...