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In numerous branches of science and engineering, a derivative shows the rate at which a

physical state changes.

For example, motion in physics. The velocity of a moving object is the derivative (with
respect to time) of the position of the object. The acceleration of the object is the
derivative of the velocity (with respect to time), which means it is the second derivative
of the position (with respect to time).
x(t) = position; ____ v(t) = dx/dt; ____ a(t) = dv/dt = dx²/dt²

In optics differentiation is used to determine the angle at which a light ray strikes a lens.

Velocity of an aircraft, sending up satellites, rate of population growth, deriving the

probability density function of a continuous random variable, etc.

• The best example is optimization which is used in business all the time, the
problem usually consist of some sort of formula which would involve you finding
the value of x, finding the derivative to set it equal to zero in order to find the
relative maximum, then evaluate your results...
Heres a good sample problem i found on the net involving apple production...
PROBLEM: There are 50 apple trees in an orchard. Each tree produces 800
apples. For each additional tree planted in the orchard, the output per tree drops
by 10 apples. How many trees should be added to the existing orchard in order to
maximize the total output of trees ?
SOLUTION : Let variable x be the ADDITIONAL trees planted in the existing
orchard. We wish to MAXIMIZE the total PRODUCTION of apples

P = (number of trees) (apple output per tree)

= ( 50 + x ) ( 800 - 10x )

= 40,000 + 300 x - 10 x2 .

Now differentiate this equation, getting

P' = 300 - 20 x

= 20 ( 15 - x )



x=15 .

See the adjoining sign chart for P' .


x = 15 additional trees ,


P = 42,250 apples

is the largest possible production of apples.


Newton's equations involve the gravitational forces acting upon one of the participating
bodies, arising from all of the other bodies. Since force is mass times acceleration, and
since acceleration is simply the second derivative of position with respect to time, it is the
differential calculus which describesthe accelerations. Then, once the accelerations are
given, it is necessary to use integral calculus in order to get from the second derivatives
to the positions.

The rate of increase of a population is a function of the age- or stage-specific rates of

survival, reproduction, growth, development, etc. (collectively, the "vital rates").
Sensitivity analysis explores this dependence by calculating the change in the rate of
increase that would result from a change in any of the vital rates. Mathematically, this is
done by computing the derivatives of the rate of increase with respect to each of the vital
rates (Hamilton 1966, Demetrius 1969, Keyfitz 1971, Caswell 1978). Sensitivity analysis
has become standard practice in demographic analysis. A nonexhaustive sample of recent
applications, to a variety of taxa, includes McFadden (1991), Kalisz and McPeek (1992),
Sivertown et al. (1992), McDonald (1993), Nault and Gagnon (1993), O'Connor (1993),
Ang and DeWreede (1993), and Svensson et al. (1993). Because the rate of increase
measures fitness in age-classified populations (Charlesworth 1980, 1993, Lande 1982),
sensitivity analysis is also important in life history theory, where it measures the selection
gradient on the vital rates.
we use them to measure how a system changes with time. Like in a chemical reaction of
say, oxygen+hydrogen goes to water, we can use the derivative of the rate equation to
measure how long it will take for a certain percentage of the reactants to be turned into
products. This is vital for industrial processes.

Read more:

Biologists use differential calculus to determine the exact rate of
growth in a bacterial culture when different variables such as
temperature and food source are changed. This research can help
increase the rate of growth of necessary bacteria, or decrease the rate
of growth for harmful and potentially threatening bacteria.

Derivatives can be used to obtain useful characteristics about a graph, such as the maximums,
minimums, peaks, valleys, and slopes. You can even use them to graph complicated equations
without a graphing calculator!