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- The History of Differential Equations,1670–1950
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Problems

dx

= kx, x(t0 ) = x0 (1)

dt

growth or decay. For instance, in biology it models the growth of bacteria or a

small population of animals that increases at a rate proportional to the amount

present at any time.

In physics the IVP (1) models the process of estimating the amount of

radioactive substance remaining at any time t or the temperature of a cooling

body. Similarly in chemistry, it may be used to estimate the amount os

chemicals that remain at any time during certain chemical processes.

Bacterial Growth

bacteria is measured to be (3/2)N0 . If the rate of growth is proportional to the

number of bacteria present, determine the time necessary for the number of

bacteria to triple.

dN

= kN, N (0) = N0 (2)

dt

3

2 N0 = N0 ek ⇒ k = ln( 32 ) = 0.4055. Thus N (t) = N0 e0.4055t .

ln3

3N0 = N0 e0.4055t1 ⇒ t1 = ≈ 2.71 hours .

0.4055

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 2/1

Carbon Dating

radioactive carbon C-14. Given the the half-life of C-14 in approximately

5600 years, determine the age of the fossil.

Answer: If A0 be the original amount of C-14, then the associated IVP is once

again of the same type as in the previous problem and it has the solution

A(t) = A0 ekt . Since A(t) = A0 /2 when t = 5600 years, we have

A0 ln2

= A0 e5600t ⇒ k = − = −0.00012378.

2 5600

A0 ln1000

= A0 e −0.00012378t1

⇒ t1 = ≈ 55, 800 years.

1000 0.00012378

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 3/1

Electrical Circuits

inductance is 1/2 henry and the resistance is 10 ohms. Determine the current i

if the initial current is zero.

di

law states that the sum of the voltage drop across the inductor (L dt ) and the

voltage drop across the resistor (iR) is the same as the impressed voltage

(E(t)) on the circuit. Thus the current flow i(t) satisfies the linear equation

di

L + Ri = E(t) (3)

dt

Thus the given problem gives rise to the IVP

1 di

+ 10i = 12, i(0) = 0 (4)

2 dt

6

Upon solving it we get the current flow as i(t) = 5 − 65 e−20t .

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 4/1

Fluid Mixtures

gallons of water. A brine solution is pumped into the tank at a rate of 3 gallons

per minute and a well-stirred solution is then pumped out at the same rate. If

the concentration of the solution entering is 2 pounds per gallon, determine

the amount of salt in the tank at any time. How much salt is present after 50

minutes? After a long time?

Answer: If A(t)be the amount of salt in the tank at any time t, then

dA

= (Rate of entry) − (Rate of exit) = R1 − R2 .

dt

For the given problem the rate at which salt enters the tank is

R1 = (3gal/min) × (2lb/gal) = 6lb/min

and the rate at which salt leaves the tank is

A A

R2 = (3gal/min) × ( lb/gal) = lb/min.

300 100

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 5/1

Fluid Mixtures

dA A

=6− , A(0) = 50 (5)

dt 100

A(50) = 266.41 lbs. Also as t → ∞, we have A → 600. Thus after a long

period of time the amount of salt in the solution is 600 lbs.

If in the preceding example, the well stirred solution is pumped out at a slower

rate of 2 gallons per minute, then the solution is accumulating at a rate of

(3 − 2)gal/min = 1 gal/min. After t minutes

there are 300 + t gallons of brine

A 2A

in the tank so that R2 = (2gal/min) × 300+t lb/gal = 300+t lb/min and

the IVP (5) takes the form

dA 2A

+ = 6, A(0) = 50, (6)

dt 300 + t

This has the solution A(t) = 2(300 + t) − (4.95 × 107 )(300 + t)−2 .

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 6/1

Applications of nonlinear equations: Population

Growth

dP

= kP, k > 0 then the population exhibits unbounded exponential

dt

growth. This is an unrealistic model of growth in many cases, especially in

those where the initial population is large. In such cases overcrowded

conditions with the resulting detrimental effects of such as pollution and

excessive and competitive demand for resources inhibit growth. In 1840 a

Belgian mathematician-biologist P. F. Verhulst proposed a different equation

of the form

dP

= P (a − bP )

dt

where a and b are positive constants determined by the circumstances. This

equation is referred to as the logistic equation and its solution as the logistic

function.

Population Growth

In particular if a(> 0) is the average birthrate and the average death rate is

proportional to the population P (t) at any time t, then the rate of growth per

1 dP

individual ( ) satisfies

P dt

1 dP

= (average birth rate − average death rate) = a − bP.

P dt

Thus if P0 be the initial population, this gives rise to the IVP

dP

= aP − bP 2 , P (0) = P0 (7)

dt

This has the solution

aP0

P (t) = .

bP0 + (a − bP0 )e −at

space of certain types of bacteria, protozoa, water fleas and fruit flies.

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 8/1

Spread of contagious diseases.

dx/dt at which the disease spreads is proportional not only to the number of

people x(t) that have already contracted disease, but also to those y(t) which

have not yet been affected. Thus

dx

= kxy

dt

we have x + y = n + 1 so that the rate of spread of the disease is given by

dx

= kx(n + 1 − x). This gives rise to the obvious initial value problem

dt

dx

= kx(n + 1 − x), x(0) = 1. (8)

dt

Spread of contagious diseases.

campus of 1000 students. Determine the number of infected students after 6

days if it is observed that 50 students are affected after 4 days.

Answer: Assuming that nobody leaves the campus throughout the duration of

the disease, we seek the solution of the following IVP.

dx

= kx(1000 − x), x(0) = 1.

dt

1000

This has the solution x(t) = . Using the fact that x(4) = 50

1 + 999e −1000kt

−1 19 1000

we have k = ln = 0.0009906 so that x(t) = .

4000 999 1 + 999e−0.0009906t

Thus the number of students affected after 6 days is

1000

x(6) = = 276 students.

1 + 999e−5.9436

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 10/1

Problems from mechanics: Falling bodies

It is well known that free-falling bodies close to the surface of the earth

accelerate at a constant rate g. Since acceleration is the first derivative of

velocity which in turn is the first derivative of the distance s(t) covered in

time t, the vertical distance covered by the body is described by the equation

d2 s

= g.

dt2

d2 s dv dv ds dv

If v(t) be the velocity at any time t then 2 = = = v . Thus if

dt dt ds dt ds

the body is falls from rest from a height h close to the earth’s surface, then

this gives rise to the following first order IVP in v.

dv

v = g, v(h) = 0 (9)

ds

Falling bodies

its velocity v(t) at any time time then the force acting on the body is mg − kv

where k is a constant of proportionality and the negative sign is due to the fact

that resistance opposes the motion.

dv

m = mg − kv.

dt

Thus if the body falls from a height h, then this gives rise to the initial value

problem

dv k

v + v = g, v(h) = 0 (10)

ds m

Projectiles

A rocket of mass m is propelled from the surface of the earth. its motion is

resisted by gravitational force which is inversely proportional to the square of

the distance covered at any time t. Thus its motion is described by the

equation

d2 s k

m 2 =− 2

dt s

where k is the constant of proportionality.

Using the fact that the acceleration due to gravity on the surface of the earth is

g if R be the radius of the earth, this yields the equation mg = k/R 2 . Thus if

v0 be the initial velocity of the rocket, then the velocity v(s) at any height s is

the solution of the IVP

dv gR2

v = − 2 , v(R) = v0 (11)

ds s

Motion of a pendulum

negligible mass. If the bob is pulled to one side through an angle α and

released, then by the principle of conservation of energy.

1 2 ds

2 mv(t) = mg(a cos α − a cos θ) where v(t)(=

dt

) is the

velocity at time t and θ is the angular displacement of the pendulum from the

vertical position at any time t. Since s = aθ, this gives rise to the IVP

1 dθ 2

2 a dt = g(cos θ − cos α), θ(0) = α (12)

The shape of a hanging wire

Suppose that a suspended wire hangs under its own weight. Then the curve

described by the shape of the wire is the solution of an IVP of second order

which may be reduced to two IVPs of first order.

We examine a portion of the wire between the lowest point P1 and any other

point P2 . This portion of the wire is at an equilibrium under the action of three

forces, namely, the weight of the segment P1 P2 , the tensions T1 and 2 in the

wire at P1 and P2 respectively. If w be the linear density of the wire and s the

length of P1 P2 , then the weight of P1 P2 is ws.

The shape of a hanging wire

Resolving the tension T2 into its horizontal and vertical components T2 cos θ

and T2 sin θ respectively (see figure), the following equation arise from the

equilibrium condition.

T1 = T2 cos θ (13)

ws = T2 sin θ (14)

s 2

x

dy

Z

s= 1+ (15)

0 dx

s 2

ds dy

= 1+ (16)

dx dx

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 16/1

The shape of a hanging wire

ws

But from (13) and (14) we have tan θ = so that

T1

dy ws

= (17)

dx T1

d2 y w ds

Differentiating the above equation with respect to x we have 2 = .

dx T1 dx

Now using (16) we have

s 2

d2 y

w dy

= 1+ .

dx2 T1 dx

s 2

2

d y w dy dy

= 1+ , y(0) = 0, = 0 when (x, y) = (0, 0) (18)

dx2 T1 dx dx

Applications of First Order Ordinary Differential Equations – p. 17/1

The shape of a hanging wire

dy

Setting p = , we get the IVP

dx

dp wp

= 1 + p2 , p(0) = 0, (19).

dx T1

dy wx

The solution of this IVP is the first order ODE = tan . The latter gives

dx T1

rise to the second IVP

dy wx

= tan , y(0) = 0, (20).

dx T1

T1 wx

y= ln sec .

w T1

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