For more information, please see full course syllabus of Multivariable Calculus

For more information, please see full course syllabus of Multivariable Calculus

### Potential Functions

^{2}+ y

^{2}< 9} is connected.

^{2}y + 2x + [1/3]y

^{3}− 2 is a potential function for F(x,y) = (2xy + 2,x

^{2}+ y

^{2}).

- A function f is a potential function for the vector field F if ∇f = F.
- Recall that the gradient of f, ∇f, is the vector whose components are the partial derivatives of f, that is ∇f = ( [df/dx],[df/dy] ).

^{2}+ y

^{2}) = F then f is a potential function for F.

_{F}for the vector field F(x,y) = (2x

^{2}, − 2y

^{2}x) does not exist.

- If [df/dy][dg/dx] then no potential function for the vector field F(f(x,y),g(x,y)) exists.
- We have f(x,y) = 2x
^{2}, so [df/dy] = 0. Also g(x,y) = − 2y^{2}x and [dg/dx] = − 2y^{2}.

^{2}, then no potential function for F exists.

_{F}for the vector field F(x,y) = (y

^{2}e

^{x},2xe

^{y}) does not exist.

- If [df/dy][dg/dx] then no potential function for the vector field F(f(x,y),g(x,y)) exists.
- We have f(x,y) = y
^{2}e^{x}, so [df/dy] = 2ye^{x}. Also g(x,y) = 2xe^{y}and [dg/dx] = 2e^{y}.

^{x}2e

^{y}, then no potential function for F exists.

_{F}for the vector field F(x,y) = (2ycos(x),2sin(x)) exist?

- If [df/dy][dg/dx] then no potential function for the vector field F(f(x,y),g(x,y)) exists.
- We have f(x,y) = 2ycos(x), so [df/dy] = 2cos(x). Also g(x,y) = 2sin(x) and [dg/dx] = 2cos(x).

_{F}for the vector field F(x,y,z) = (y

^{2}z,x

^{2}z,z) does not exist.

- For a three space vector field F(f(x,y,z),g(x,y,z),h(x,y,z)) if [dg/dx][df/dy], [dh/dx][df/dz] and [dh/dy][dg/dz] then no potential function for the vector field exists.
- We find the necessary partial derivatives and then equate them respectively.
- Now, for f(x,y,z) = y
^{2}z we compute [df/dy] = 2yz and [df/dz] = y^{2}. For g(x,y,z) = x^{2}z we compute [dg/dx] = 2xz and [dg/dz] = x^{2}. And for h(x,y,z) = z we compute [dh/dx] = 0 and [dh/dy] = 0.

^{2}= [df/dz] and [dh/dy] = 0x

^{2}= [dg/dz], then no potential function for F exists.

_{F}for the vector field F(x,y,z) = (ycos(x),xyz,ysin(x)) does not exist.

- For a three space vector field F(f(x,y,z),g(x,y,z),h(x,y,z)) if [dg/dx][df/dy], [dh/dx][df/dz] and [dh/dy][dg/dz] then no potential function for the vector field exists.
- We find the necessary partial derivatives and then equate them respectively.
- Now, for f(x,y,z) = ycos(x) we compute [df/dy] = cos(x) and [df/dz] = 0. For g(x,y,z) = xyz we compute [dg/dx] = yz and [dg/dz] = xy. And for h(x,y,z) = ysin(x) we compute [dh/dx] = ycos(x) and [dh/dy] = sin(x).

*These practice questions are only helpful when you work on them offline on a piece of paper and then use the solution steps function to check your answer.

Answer

### Potential Functions

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

- Intro
- Potential Functions
- Definition 1: Potential Functions
- Definition 2: An Open Set S is Called Connected if…
- Theorem 1
- Existence of a Potential Function
- Theorem 2
- Example 1
- Contrapositive and Positive Form of the Theorem
- The Converse is Not Generally True
- Our Theorem
- Compare the n-th Term Test for Divergence of an Infinite Series
- So for Our Theorem

- Intro 0:00
- Potential Functions 0:08
- Definition 1: Potential Functions
- Definition 2: An Open Set S is Called Connected if…
- Theorem 1
- Existence of a Potential Function
- Theorem 2
- Example 1
- Contrapositive and Positive Form of the Theorem
- The Converse is Not Generally True
- Our Theorem
- Compare the n-th Term Test for Divergence of an Infinite Series
- So for Our Theorem

### Multivariable Calculus

### Transcription: Potential Functions

*Hello and welcome back to educator.com and multivariable calculus.*0000

*Today we are going to start our discussion of potential functions, so let us just jump right on in.*0004

*We are going to start with a definition of course, of what a potential function is. This is a very, very, very important discussion, especially for those of you in physics. *0009

*Well, not necessarily just for physicists but in particular in physics because most of classic physics is based on the notion of a potential function, a conservative potential function.*0020

*In any case, let us just jump in and see what we can do mathematically. Okay.*0031

*So, definition. Let f be a vector field on an open set s -- okay -- if small f is a differentiable function on s subject to... the gradient of small f happens to equal capital F... the vector field, then we say f is a potential function for f. Small f is a potential function for capital F.*0037

*So, what we are saying is if we are given a vector... so basically what we have been doing up to this point... at least earlier before we started the line integral discussion, we have been given functions and then we have been taking the gradient of that particular function.*0117

*Now what we are saying is -- and the gradient is a vector field -- what we are saying is that we are not going to start with a function, we are actually going to give you some vector field.*0134

*We want to know if it happens to be the gradient of some function. That is all we are saying.*0144

*You might think to yourself, of course if you have a vector field it comes from somewhere -- as it turns out, that is not the case.*0150

*This is analogous to single variable calculus when you are given the particular function, can you find the function that this is the derivative of. That is what we are asking.*0157

*So, if we are given a vector field first, does there exist a function such that this is the gradient of... that is what a potential function is, it is that particular function.*0168

*So, let us just sort of write all of this out. So, up to now, we have started with f and taken grad f to get a vector field. The vector field is the gradient.*0181

*If given a vector field first, can we recover a function f? That is the question.*0213

*If we can, then f is a potential function. f is a potential function for the given vector field.*0236

*The idea -- well, this one I do not have to write out -- so again, the idea of finding a potential function for a vector field is analogous to finding the integral of a function over an interval.*0269

*Does one exist? Precisely because the idea of taking the gradient of a particular function which we have been doing is analogous to taking the derivative. That is what we are doing when we are taking the gradient. We are taking partial derivatives.*0280

*But essentially a gradient is, taken as a whole, is the derivative of a function of several variables.*0293

*Now we are just working backwards. This is analogous to trying to find, we are just trying to integrate a gradient is essentially what we are doing. Can we integrate it?*0301

*If we do, does a function exist? Well, in all questions like this, that is essentially the central question. Does the potential function exist, and if it does, well, is it unique, and how can we find it? *0310

*Does are sort of the 3 questions that occupy pretty much the majority of science, of mathematics. Does something exist, is it unique, and can we find it? Is there a way that we can find it, or can we just say that it exists. *0325

*It is nice to be able to say that it exists, or it does not exist, but from a practical standpoint, we want to be able to find it. Okay.*0339

*Let us see what we have, so, let us talk about uniqueness first. That is actually the easy part, so, uniqueness.*0347

*So, let us start out with a definition here, so we are going to define something called a connected set. Excuse me.*0361

*An open set s is called connected if given 2 points, p1 and p2 in s there exists a differentiable curve contained in s, oops, let me write that a little bit better here, contained in s, which joins p1 and p2.*0372

*So, this is just a fancy definition for something that is intuitively clear, so let us go ahead and draw a picture.*0432

*We might have some set s like that, this might be p1, this might be p2, so this is p1, this is p2, is there some differentiable curve that actually connects them.*0438

*It could be a straight line, it could be some series of straight lines, a piecewise continuous, is there some path that actually connects them, some differentiable path that connects them. So that is a connected set.*0452

*That is it. Essentially it is just a set that is one piece, and if I had something like this, this is p1 this is p2, well then this particular case there is no differentiable curve that actually connects them, this is still an open set and it is still a viable open set, it is just not connected.*0465

*There is no path that connects them that stays in the open set. I am going to cross the boundary and I am going to be out in this no man's land. So, this is not connected. *0483

*So, we need this notion of connection here. This is a not connected, and this is a connected set. Now we will go ahead and state our theorem.*0495

*Let s be a connected set -- uhh, let us say a little more than just connected -- connected open set... okay... if f and g are two differentiable functions on s and if the gradient of f happens to equal the gradient of g for every point of s, then there exists a constant -- oh by the way this reverse e is a symbol for "there exists" -- a constant c such that f of some point in s is equal to g of some point + c for all points x in s.*0509

*So, basically what this means is that open connected set, if you have two functions, f and g, where if you take the gradient of f and it equals the gradient of g at every point, then essentially what we are saying is that those two functions are exactly the same up to a constant.*0602

*Again, this constant is not much of an issue. They are the same, they only differ by a constant. *0619

*This is sort of analogous to what we did in single variable calculus. On a given interval, they have 2 functions f and g. If f = g everywhere along that interval, well then the 2 functions are the same, the only different between them is this particular constant, which does not really matter because again, when you differentiate a constant it goes to 0. *0629

*For all practical purposes, they are the same. So, on an open connected set, what this theorem is ultimately saying is that a potential function is unique. Okay.*0650

*Now, we will go ahead and deal with existence. This is going to be the important one. So, now existence of a potential function and hopefully eventually we will talk about how to actually construct this potential function. Now, existence.*0662

*Let f(x,y) = f(x,y), g(x,y), so these are my coordinate functions for this vector field.*0684

*We want to know if and when a potential function exists for f. We want conditions that will tell us when something exists, when this potential function exists, for the vector field.*0700

*So, let us go ahead and give this a symbol that we are going to use over and over again. Let us call this capital p _{f}(x,y). Potential function for the vector field f, that is what this symbol means.*0730

*That is, we want to know if -- again, I am going to use this reverse e -- if there exists a p _{f} of (x,y) such that dp_{f} dx = f, and d(p_{f})/dy = g. That is what we are doing. *0754

*We want to know if there is a function that when I take the gradient of that function, this p _{f}, I end up with a vector field. That is the idea of a potential function.*0803

*If given a vector field, is this a gradient of some function.*0812

*The idea is actually really, really simple in and of itself. What is going to be difficult from a practical standpoint is keeping things straight.*0819

*Up to now we have been going from functions to gradients. Now we are just going to drop a vector field on you and we are going to be trying to go backwards, so, take a couple of extra seconds to make sure that you have your function separated, that you know whether you are dealing with a function or a vector field f, its coordinate functions, and that these might be the derivatives, this f and g of the original function we are trying to recover.*0827

*There are going to be lots of f's and g's and f1's and f2's floating around. Make sure you know which direction we are moving in. That is really going to be the only difficult part, the logistics of this, in and of itself, it is not... the concept is not difficult. Just be careful in the execution.*0854

*So, again, so we want to know if there exists some potential function such that the partial with respect to x is equal to this, and the partial with respect to y is equal to this. okay.*0871

*let us see if we can come up with a test here. Let us suppose there is.*0885

*Suppose yes. A p _{f} exists for a given vector field. Then, df/dy if I take the partial -- let me write these out again, up here, because I want them to be on the same page -- so RF is equal to f and g.*0892

*Now, suppose yes, that some potential function exists. Then, if I take the derivative of f with respect to y, that is going to equal the partial with respect to y of well, f happens to be the partial derivative with respect to x of the potential function.*0930

*This is just d(p _{f})/dx, right? because we are supposing that the potential function actually exists. The potential function is this.*0953

*The d/dx is f, now if I take the df/dy, it is going to be this thing. Well, that equals d ^{2} p_{f} dy, dx, right? Okay. So we have this thing.*0965

*Now, let us go ahead and do the other. Let us go ahead and differentiate g with respect to x. That is going to equal d/dx, and we said that g was equal to the partial of the potential function with respect to y, so that equals d ^{2} p_{f} dx, dy.*0987

*d ^{2} of this, dy dx, d^{2} of this dx, dy, what do we know about mixed partials? that it does not matter what order you take them in. They are actually equal. These 2 are equal, because, remember? Way back in previous lessons, mixed partial derivatives are equal.*1017

*Because these are equal, what we get is this and this are equal.*1039

*So, df/dy = dg/dx. By supposing that a potential function actually exists, we actually derived a relation between the partial derivatives of the vector field, component functions of the vector field. *1049

*If I have a vector field, if df/dy = dg/dx, that is a product of the fact that a potential function exists. This actually gives me a nice way of testing to see whether a potential function exists given a vector field. Okay.*1066

*So, now we have a test, but we have to be careful in how we implement this test, and now we are going to get into a little bit of mathematical logic. If this, then this, we are going to have to see what implies what, we are going to have to be a little extra careful.*1085

*Now we have a test. Okay. So we are going to express this test as a theorem. Now, let f and g be differentiable with continuous partial derivatives. *1103

*This just means that they are well behaved, and again, the functions that we are going to be dealing with are well behaved, so for all practical purposes whenever I write this out in a theorem, it is not necessary to write them out but I think it is sort of good to get used to see how theorems are written.*1136

*You are going to see all of these things and it is important that all of these hypotheses be in place formally.*1150

*Partial derivatives on an open set, s in 2-space, so we are going to deal with 2-space first and we will deal with 3-space in just a minute... 2-space.*1155

*Okay. Here is the if-then part. If df/dy does not equal dg/dx, or using capital denotation if d _{2}(f) does not equal d_{1}(g), remember this capital D notation? It says take the derivative with respect to the second variable of f.*1173

*Take the derivative with respect to the first variable of g. In this case we have 2 variables, x and y, so the second variable is y, the first variable is x.*1200

*This and this are just two different notations for the same thing. Then, there is no potential function for the vector field, let me write this a little bit better, for the vector field f which is comprised of the functions f and g.*1209

*Okay. So, if I am given a vector field f and g, all I need to do is I need to take the derivative of f with respect to y, the derivative of g with respect to x and I need to see if they are equal.*1248

*If they are note equal, I can automatically conclude that there is no potential function and I can stop right there. That is what this test is telling me.*1260

*We came up with that by supposing that a potential function exists. If a potential function exists, then df/dy has to equal dg/dx.*1270

*Our test is written in the contrapositive form. We work in reverse. If the potential function exists, then this has to be true. That is the same as if this is not true, then a potential function does not exist. I am going to be talking about that in just a minute.*1278

*But, again, from a practical standpoint, our test is this, if I am given a vector field, one coordinate function, second coordinate function, I take the derivative, I take df with respect to dy, I take df/dy, I take dg/dx, I see if they are equal.*1295

*If they are not equal, then I can conclude that a potential function does not exist. However, if they are equal, that does not mean that I cannot conclude that a potential function does exist. The direction of implication is very important.*1311

*This is profoundly important. Be very, very careful in how you actually use these theorems. Use it as written. If df/dy does not equal dg/dx, there is no potential function.*1327

*So, let us just do an example real quickly. Then we will continue on with a discussion of the subtleties of the mathematical logic involved here. So, example 1.*1339

*Let f(x,y) = sin(x,y) -- I should write this a little bit better here -- = sin(x,y) and cos(x,y), so that is our vector field.*1352

*This is our f and this is our g. Well, let us go ahead and find df/dy and dg/dx.*1374

*df/dy = x × cos(x,y) and dg/dx = -y × sin(x,y). Well, this and this are not equal. Therefore, there does not exist a potential function.*1382

*In other words, this vector field does not have a potential function. So, df/dy not being equal to dg/dx implies that there does not exist a potential function for this vector field f.*1413

*This is how we use our test. Very, very nice. Let me go ahead and give you the analog for this in 3-space.*1437

*The analogous test for 3-space -- now we are going to be talking about 3 variables, we just take them 2 at a time -- is as follows.*1452

*The same hypotheses, of course, and plus the partial derivative part of the test is -- I am going to write this in terms of capital D notation -- D1(f2) does not equal D2(f1), D1(f3) does not equal D3(f1). *1469

*Again this is where you have to be careful. Just take a couple of extra seconds to do this nice and slow.*1505

*D2(f3) does not equal D3(f2). Okay. Then, f(x,y,z), which is the first coordinate function f1, f2, f3, so here instead of using fg whatever, I am just using first function, second function, third function... does not have a potential function. *1507

*So, let us go ahead and talk about the notation a little bit more. I am going to be using this one, but I am also going to be using the other one.*1546

*Okay. This says -- what I have to do is I have to check the derivative of the second coordinate function with respect to the first variable, and then I have to compare that with the derivative of the first function with respect to the second variable.*1552

*The derivative of the third coordinate function with respect to the first variable, I have to check to see if it is equal to the derivative of the first function with respect to the third variable.*1565

*I have to check the derivative of the third function with respect to the second variable, and see if it is equal to the derivative of the second function with respect to the third variable. *1575

*The three variables are the first, second, and third, respectively, are x, y, and z. The three functions are f1, f2, f3.*1584

*So, this looks like, out here I will do this in blue, let me see if I can get this right.*1595

*This is going to be d -- that is plenty of room I do not need to squeeze it in here -- this is d(f2)/dx does not equal d(f1)/dy.*1605

*This one is d(f3)/dx does not equal d(f1)/dz, third.*1623

*This one is d(f3)/dy does not equal -- excuse me, d(f2)/dz.*1635

*Take some time to look at this carefully. First, second, third variable, x, y, z. First, second, third coordinate function of the vector field.*1648

*I am mixing -- it is okay, so this sometimes, some people like this notation, some people like this notation, just make sure that you pair up properly. This notation is nice because you have 1, 2, 2, 1... 1, 3, 3, 1... 2, 3, 3, 2.*1658

*All of the indices are taken care of so you can see that. It is just a question of getting used to this, you are probably not used to this too much, depending on what notation your teacher uses.*1673

*So, now let us go ahead and discuss a little bit more about how this theorem is stated, and talk about some mathematical logic.*1683

*So, pay close attention to how the theorem is stated. How the theorem is stated.*1691

*It is stated in something called contra-positive form.*1718

*Contra-positive form is if not a, then not b. Okay? This is equivalent to its positive form.*1734

*That is the standard form. If a -- oops, sorry -- if b, then a. So if I am given if b, then a, that is how we actually did it. That is how we derived... how we presumed if it has a potential function, then df/dy = dg/dx.*1763

*But we use it in contra-positive form because we want to have a test. If not a, then not b.*1800

*In other words, if df does not equal dg/dx, then we know that a potential function does not exist. These 2 are equivalent. Generally, well, actually we will talk a little bit more about it.*1806

*So let me write that down, so if there exists a potential function, then df/dy = dg/dx.*1819

*The contrapositive form is the way we used it as a test. If this does not exist, then, there is no potential function. Okay.*1839

*Now, the converse is not true. Let me circle this. This is the positive form. If there exists a potential function, then df/dy = dg/dx.*1848

*Okay. The converse is not generally true. The converse would be if df/dy = dg/dx, then a potential function exists. *1860

*All I do is reverse the if/then part, I leave the if/then, except I take this over here, this over there. If I just switch the places, that is the converse, that is not generally true.*1882

*However if I switch places and I negate both, that is the contrapositive, that is true. It is equivalent to the positive.*1893

*Now let us go ahead and write this out, so, positive, we have if b, then a. That is the positive, that is the standard form.*1901

*The contrapositive is if not a, then not b. This is equivalent.*1917

*This is equivalent to the positive. That we can always use.*1934

*The converse is, notice, if b, then a... if a, then b... in other words, can I conclude that it works in the other direction? No. This is a completely different statement in fact -- I will not write different statement, let me write not equivalent to the positive.*1940

*This is not equivalent to the positive, so, now in terms of our theorem.*1963

*So, our theorem, the positive of our theorem says if a potential function for a vector field exists, then, d2f1 = d1f2, and so on for all of the other partials depending on how many we are talking about.*1978

*In order to be useful in a test, we take the contra-positive form.*2006

*So, the contra-positive, if d2f1 does not equal d1f2, then the potential function for f... well, let me go ahead and use some symbols... then there does not exist a potential function for f.*2014

*The converse, which is if d2f1 = d1f2, if I just switch this and switch this, then there exists a potential function -- I will do this in red -- not true.*2045

*This is true. The contra-positive is true, it is how we use it as a test. The converse, not generally true. In generally you have to actually prove the converse if it were true. In this case it is not. *2074

*You are going to find potential functions where the partial, where d2f1 = d1f2, but a potential function does not exist, so I cannot necessarily conclude that this is the case.*2087

*So, think about it this way. I can conclude that if it is raining outside, then it is cloudy. That is an automatic implication. If it is raining, then it is cloudy.*2098

*Well, I can also conclude the contra-positive. If it is not cloudy, then I know that it is not raining. That is the contra-positive. Now let us go back to the positive, if it is raining, then it is cloudy, but I cannot necessarily conclude that if it is cloudy, it is raining.*2108

*It can be cloudy, but it cannot be remaining, that is possible. The converse and the contra-positive are two entirely different things.*2123

*Often, in this particular case, we have the positive that if a potential function exists, then these partials are equal.*2131

*We use it as a test, we use the contra-positive version to exclude the possibility. If the partials are not equal, then the potential function does not exist.*2137

*Be very, very careful in how you use these and do not mix the converse with the contra-positive. Just because something implies something else does not mean that it works in reverse. That is not true in general.*2148

*So, I am going to just say one more thing about this. Just to make sure that we are solid. Compare this with the nth term test.*2162

*You actually have seen this type of mathematical logic before back when you were doing infinite series, so you compare the nth term test for divergence of an infinite series... for divergence of an infinite series.*2174

*The positive of that theorem is this: if the series, a _{n} converges, then the limit as n approaches infinity of the nth term is equal to 0. That is the positive.*2196

*I know that if I have a series that converges, I know that if I take the limit of the nth term, this thing, I know that it is going to equal 0. *2217

*Now, for testing purposes, we use the contra-positive. We say if the limit as n approaches infinity of the nth term does not equal 0, then the infinite series does not converge.*2225

*Now, the converse would be the following. It would be the limit of a _{n} as it goes to infinity = 0, then the series converges.*2257

*All I have done is switch places with this and this. This is not true. The harmonic series, the limit goes to 0, one over... the harmonic series was the sum of 1 over n, the limit goes to 0 but the harmonic series does not converge.*2277

*So, positive was fine, the contra-positive is an equivalent form of that. The converse is not. So, that is it.*2290

*One final statement, so for our theorem let me go back to blue here. So, for our theorem, d2(f1), in other words, the quality of the partials, d1(f2) is a necessary condition -- let me actually capitalize this, you are going to see these words used a lot, they are very, very important words in mathematics, and they should be more important in science -- is a necessary condition for existence of a potential function for f.*2299

*But alone, it does not suffice. It is not sufficient. So, just because I have the d2(f1) = d1(f2) that is necessary for a potential function to exist, but it is not enough for the potential function to exist.*2355

*I need other things to be there in order for the potential function to exist. But, if it does exist, then yes, that is certainly going to hold. So it is necessary but it is not sufficient.*2386

*In other words clouds are necessary for a rainy day, but they are not sufficient for a rainy day they have to be a particular type of cloud, there have to be other conditions that are met. *2395

*That is what we are saying. So the words necessary and sufficient are very, very important in mathematics. Just because something is necessary does not necessarily mean that it is sufficient.*2403

*I will go ahead and leave it at that. Thank you for joining us here at educator.com, we will see you next time, bye-bye.*2413

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