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1/22/12 1.2 What Is Calculus and Why do we Study it?

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1.2 What Is Calculus and Wh do we Stud it?
Calculus is the study oI how things change. It provides a Iramework Ior modeling systems in which there is change,
and a way to deduce the predictions oI such models.
I have been around for a while, and know how things change, more or less. What can calculus add to that?
I am sure you know lots about how things change. And you have a qualitative notion oI calculus. For example the
concept oI speed oI motion is a notion straight Irom calculus, though it surely existed long beIore calculus did and you
So what does calculus add for me?
It provides a way Ior us to construct relatively simple quantitative models oI change, and to deduce their
consequences.
To what end?
With this you get the ability to Iind the eIIects oI changing conditions on the system being investigated. By studying
these, you can learn how to control the system to do make it do what you want it to do. Calculus, by giving engineers
and you the ability to model and control systems gives them (and potentially you) extraordinary power over the material
world.
The development oI calculus and its applications to physics and engineering is probably the most signiIicant Iactor in
the development oI modern science beyond where it was in the days oI Archimedes. And this was responsible Ior the
industrial revolution and everything that has Iollowed Irom it including almost all the major advances oI the last Iew
centuries.
Are you trying to claim that I will know enough about calculus to model systems and deduce enough to
control them?
II you had asked me this question ten years ago I would have said no. Now it is within the realm oI possibility, Ior
some non-trivial systems, with your use oI your laptop or desk computer.
OK, but how does calculus models change? What is calculus like?
The Iundamental idea oI calculus is to study change by studying "instantaneous" change, by which we mean changes
over tiny intervals oI time.
And what good is that?
It turns out that such changes tend to be lots simpler than changes over Iinite intervals oI time. This means they are
lots easier to model. In Iact calculus was invented by Newton, who discovered that acceleration, which means change
oI speed oI objects could be modeled by his relatively simple laws oI motion.
And so?
This leaves us with the problem oI deducing inIormation about the motion oI objects Irom inIormation about their
speed or acceleration. And the details oI calculus involve the interrelations between the concepts exempliIied by speed
and acceleration and that represented by position.
So what does one study in learning about calculus?
1/22/12 1.2 What Is Calculus and Why do we Study it?
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To begin with you have to have a Iramework Ior describing such notions as position speed and acceleration.
Single variable calculus, which is what we begin with, can deal with motion oI an object along a Iixed path. The more
general problem, when motion can take place on a surIace, or in space, can be handled by multivariable calculus. We
study this latter subject by Iinding clever tricks Ior using the one dimensional ideas and methods to handle the more
general problems. So single variable calculus is the key to the general problem as well.
When we deal with an object moving along a path, its position varies with time we can describe its position at any time
by a single number, which can be the distance in some units Irom some Iixed point on that path, called the "origin" oI
our coordinate system. (We add a sign to this distance, which will be negative iI the object is behind the origin.)
The motion oI the object is then characterized by the set oI its numerical positions at relevant points in time.
The set oI positions and times that we use to describe motion is what we call a function. And similar Iunctions are
used to describe the quantities oI interest in all the systems to which calculus is applied.
The course here starts with a review oI numbers and Iunctions and their properties. You are undoubtedly Iamiliar with
much oI this, so we have attempted to add unIamiliar material to keep your attention while looking at it.
I will get bogged down if I read about such stuff. Must I?
I would love to have you look at it, since I wrote it, but iI you preIer not to, you could undoubtedly get by skipping it,
and reIerring back to it when or iI you need to do so. However you will miss the new inIormation, and doing so could
blight you Iorever. (Though I doubt it.)
And what comes after numbers and functions?
A typical course in calculus covers the Iollowing topics:
1. How to Iind the instantaneous change (called the "derivative") oI various Iunctions. (The process oI doing so is
called "differentiation".)
2. How to use derivatives to solve various kinds oI problems.
3. How to go back Irom the derivative oI a Iunction to the Iunction itselI. (This process is called "integration".)
4. Study oI detailed methods Ior integrating Iunctions oI certain kinds.
5. How to use integration to solve various geometric problems, such as computations oI areas and volumes oI certain
regions.
There are a Iew other standard topics in such a course. These include description oI Iunctions in terms oI power
series, and the study oI when an inIinite series "converges" to a number.
So where does this empower me to do what?
It doesn't really do so. The problem is that such courses were Iirst designed centuries ago, and they were aimed not at
empowerment (at that time utterly impossible) but at Iamiliarizing their audience with ideas and concepts and notations
which allow understanding oI more advanced work. Mathematicians and scientists and engineers use concepts oI
calculus in all sorts oI contexts and use jargon and notations that, without your learning about calculus, would be
completely inscrutable to you. The study oI calculus is normally aimed at giving you the "mathematical sophistication"
to relate to such more advanced work.
So wh this nonsense about empowerment?
This course will try to be diIIerent and to aim at empowerment as well as the other usual goals. It may not succeed,
1/22/12 1.2 What Is Calculus and Why do we Study it?
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b a ea i .
And how will it try to perform this wonder?
Tadiia cac ce ehaie agebaic ehd f efig diffeeiaig ad iegaig. We i
decibe ch ehd, b a h h ca ef diffeeiai ad iegai (ad a i f
dia diffeeia eai) a ce eadhee ih a eabe a f eff. We i a
ae hich d he ae aaica ih ee e eff. Wih hee ae, a eadhee, ca a he
f cac ih geae eae ad feibii ha ha bee ibe befe. (Thee ae e adaced ga
ha ae fe aaiabe, ch a MAPLE ad Maheaica, hich a d ch e ih iia eae.) Wih
he ca dedce he ceece f de f ai id i a ide aie f ce.
A, e i ch geae ehai deig e. Wih idea deig ad ehd f ig he
diffeeia eai he ead , ca achiee he eee e hae caied.
And I will be able to use this to some worthwhile end?
Oa, bab . B igh. Ad a igh be ed ea e ab he e a
d ab aheaic, ie chace d . A igh be abe dead he babe
ceece f de a ie bee ha d .
Well, what is in the introductory chapter on numbers?
We a ih he aa be (1,2,3,...,) ad e h he eai f baci, diii ad aig he
ae ead eedig be e icde egaie be, faci (caed aia be)
ad ce be. We a decibe decia eai ad eaie he i f cabii.
And in the chapter about functions?
We a ih a abac defiii f a fci (a a e f age-ae ai) ad he decibe he adad
fci. Thee ae he baied b aig ih he idei fci (ae=age) ad he eeia
fci, ad ig ai eai he.
Operations, what operations?
But what is the exponential function, and what are substitution and inversion?
Hee ae e eece ae: if a e ead he chae!
The eeia fci i ei defied ig cac: i i he fci ha i i deiaie, defied
hae he ae 1 a age 0. I , hee, be ehig hae ee befe. Ad i bea a
ce eai he ie fci f ige.
Sbii f e fci f i ahe g dce a e fci, he fci defied hae, a age , he
ae f f a a age hich i he ae f g a age . Thi i ie ha i d.
A iee f a fci i a fci baied b ichig i ae ih i age. F eae he ae
fci, a ie a
2
ha he ae fci a a iee.
And ?
I he ia d f Fahe Wiia hi ehe, a eed b Lei Ca, h a a aheaicia:
I hae aeed hee ei ad ha i egh,
1/22/12 1.2 What Is Calculus and Why do we Study it?
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Said the sage, dont give yourself airs.
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off or Ill kick you downstairs!
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