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Physical Applications of Vector Calculus

Physical Applications of Vector Calculus

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Published by chachunasayan
An excellent handout on Physical Applications of Vector Calculus
An excellent handout on Physical Applications of Vector Calculus

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Published by: chachunasayan on Feb 11, 2011
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SOME PHYSICAL APPLICATIONS OF VECTOR CALCULUS
1.
Fundamental Theorems of Vector Calculus
Let us first recall the fundamental theorems of vector calculus. They will beused many times in what follows.
Theorem 1.1.
Let 
γ 
be an oriented curve in 
R
3
with initial and final points
p
0
and 
p
1
, respectively. Let 
h
(
x,y,z
)
be a scalar function. Then 
(1.1)
 
γ
h
·
d
r
=
h
(
p
1
)
h
(
p
0
)
Theorem 1.2.
Let 
be a oriented surface in 
R
3
with boundary given by the closed curve
γ 
, with orientation induced from that of 
. Let 
F
(
x,y,z
)
be a vector field.Then 
(1.2)
 
(
×
F
)
·
n
dS 
=
 
γ
F
·
d
rTheorem 1.3.
Let 
be a bounded solid region in 
R
3
with boundary given by theclosed surface
, with the outward pointing orientation. Let 
F
(
x,y,z
)
be a vector  field. Then 
(1.3)
 
E
(
·
F
)
dV 
=
 
F
·
n
dS 
We also have the following two theorems which characterize
conservative
and
solendoidal 
fields, respectively:
Theorem 1.4.
A vector field 
F
in 
R
3
is said to be
conservative
or 
irrotational
if any of the following equivalent conditions hold:
×
F
=
0
at every point.
 
γ
F
·
d
r
is independent of the path joining the same two endpoints.
 
γ
F
·
d
r
= 0
for any 
closed
path 
γ 
.
F
=
h
for some scalar potential 
h
.
In fact this theorem is true for vector fields defined in any region where all closed
paths
can be shrunk to a point without leaving the region.
1
 
2 SOME PHYSICAL APPLICATIONS OF VECTOR CALCULUS
Theorem 1.5.
A vector field 
F
in 
R
3
is said to be
solenoidal
or 
incompressible
if any of the following equivalent conditions hold:
·
F
= 0
at every point.
 
F
·
n
dS 
is independent of the surface
having the same boundary curve.
 
F
·
n
dS 
= 0
for any 
closed
surface
.
F
=
×
A
for some vector potential 
A
.
Similarly, this theorem is actually true for vector fields defined in any regionwhere all closed
surfaces
can be shrunk to a point without leaving the region.The above two theorems should look very similar. Everything is shifted up byone dimension and the curl is replaced by the divergence, but the theorems areidentical in form.2.
Fluid Dynamics
Let
v
(
x,y,z,t
) be a time dependent vector field whose value at any point givesthe
velocity 
of a fluid at that point in space and time. Note that since fluids (liquidsand gases) are not rigid like solids, different parts of the fluid can be moving atdifferent velocities. Similarly let
ρ
(
x,y,z,t
) denote the density of the fluid, a scalarquantity. We can compute the total mass
m
(
t
) of a three dimensional boundedsolid region
R
of the fluid by integrating the density over
R
:
m
(
t
) =
 
R
ρ
(
x,y,z
)
dxdydz
The rate of change of the mass of the fluid in the region
R
is given by the timederivative of this expression:
dmdt
=
ddt
 
R
ρdxdydz
=
 
R
∂ρ∂tdxdydz
where we can differentiate under the integral sign since we are assuming that theregion
R
in question is not changing with time. Now the mass of the fluid inthe region
R
can change only because of fluid entering or leaving
R
through itsboundary surface
. The rate of flow of fluid out through the surface
is givenby the flux integral of 
ρ
v
over
. Note that the flux of 
v
gives the rate of volumeflow, and we need to multiply by the density at each point to get a rate of massflow. Now the mass
m
(
t
) will
decrease
if fluid is flowing
outward 
, so we need aminus sign:
dmdt
=
 
ρ
v
·
n
dS 
Setting equal the two expressions for the rate of change of mass flow, and using thedivergence theorem 1.3, we obtain:(2.1)
 
R
∂ρ∂tdxdydz
+
 
ρ
v
·
n
dS 
=
 
R
∂ρ∂t
+
·
(
ρ
v
)
dxdydz
= 0Since this must hold for
any 
region
R
, the integrand must be identically zero.This yields the
equation of continuity 
:(2.2)
∂ρ∂t
+
·
(
ρ
v
) = 0
 
SOME PHYSICAL APPLICATIONS OF VECTOR CALCULUS 3
This is the mathematical formulation of 
conservation of mass
.If the fluid is incompressible, then the density
ρ
is a constant, independent of po-sition and time, and equation 2.2 reduces to
·
v
= 0, which is the historical reasonfor calling such vector fields incompressible. In this case, applying the divergencetheorem to
·
v
= 0 tells us that the flux through any
closed 
surface
is zero.This makes sense physically because since the fluid is incompressible, it cannot bepiling up inside the region, so whatever volume of fluid goes in must come out andhence the total flux must be zero.We can also use Stokes’ Theorem 1.2 to calculate the
circulation 
of the fluidabout a closed curve
γ 
. This is just the line integral of 
v
over
γ 
, which we canrewrite as
 
(
×
v
)
·
n
dS 
for any surface
which has
γ 
as boundary. Thisis a measure of the fluid’s tendency to circulate around this path. If the fluid isirrotational,
×
v
= 0, and the circulation is zero. Hence we see here the reasonfor calling such fields irrotational.We can also use vector calculus to determine the equation of motion for thefluid, which is governed by Newton’s second law. The time rate of change of thetotal momentum of the fluid must equal the total force acting on the fluid. Themomentum in a solid bounded region can change due to flow of the fluid out of the region, due to the pressure exerted on the fluid inside by the rest of the fluidexterior to the region, and by various external forces such as gravity or electricityand magnetism, in the case of charged fluids. This situation occurs in the interiorsof stars, for example. An analysis that is similar to that which led to equation 2.2but somewhat more involved yields the classical equation of motion for fluids:(2.3)
ρ∂ 
v
∂t
+
ρ
(
v
·
)
v
=
−∇
+
ρ
F
where
is the pressure of the fluid and
F
is the external force density. This isthe
Navier-Stokes equation 
. This is an example of a nonlinear differential equation.Even today, we know very little about the behaviour of solutions to this equation,which is part of the reason why the weather is so difficult to predict. Phenomenalike turbulence, tornadoes, and whirlpools are mathematical consequences of thenonlinearity of this equation.3.
Electricity and Magnetism
We begin by stating
Maxwell’s equations
of electromagnetism. We will not con-cern ourselves here with the physical derivations of these equations and insteadexamine their mathematical consequences. Let
E
(
x,y,z,t
) and
B
(
x,y,z,t
) denotethe electric and magnetic fields in space, respectively. These depend on both po-sition and time, in general. Further, we denote by
ρ
(
x,y,z,t
) the
charge density 
and
J
(
x,y,z,t
) the
current density 
in space. Note the current density is a vectorfield, since a current is given by both a magnitude and a direction. Here are theequations:

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