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Length: 260 pages1 hour

This concise text offers both professionals and students an introduction to the fundamentals and standard methods of the calculus of variations. In addition to surveys of problems with fixed and movable boundaries, it explores highly practical direct methods for the solution of variational problems.

Topics include the method of variation in problems with fixed boundaries; variational problems with movable boundaries and other problems; sufficiency conditions for an extremum; variational problems of constrained extrema; and direct methods of solving variational problems. Each chapter features numerous illustrative problems, and solutions appear at the end.

Publisher: Dover PublicationsReleased: May 7, 2012ISBN: 9780486154930Format: book

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**Index **

There has been in recent years a wide variety of applications of variational methods to various fields of mechanics and technology and this is why engineers, of many kinds, are faced with the necessity of learning the fundamentals of the calculus of variations.

The aim of this book is to provide engineers and students of colleges of technology with the opportunity of becoming familiar with the basic notions and standard methods of the calculus of variations including the direct methods of solution of the variational problems, which are important from the practical point of view.

Each chapter is illustrated by a large number of problems some of which are taken from existing textbooks.

Along with the problems of discovering the maximum or minimum values of a given function *z *= *f*(*x*), in engineering practice we often have to find the maxima or the minima of the values of mathematical entities called *functionals. *

Functionals are variable values which depend on a variable running through a set of functions, or on a finite number of such variables, and which are completely determined by a definite choice of these variable functions.

FIG. 1

For instance, the length *l *of a curve joining two given points on the plane is a functional, because this length is fully determined by choosing a definite function *y *= *y*(*x*), the graph of which passes through these points (**Fig. 1). As soon as the equation of the curve y = y(x) is given, the value l can be calculated, namely, **

Likewise, the area *S *of a surface is a functional. It is fully determined by choosing a definite surface, i.e. by choosing the function *z*(*x*, *y*) that is involved in the equation of this surface *z *= *z*(*x*, *y*). As is well known,

where *D *is the projection of this surface on the *x*, *y*-plane.

The moments of inertia of a homogeneous curve or a surface with respect to a point or an axis or a plane are also functionals. Their values are fully determined by choosing a curve or a surface, i.e. by choosing the functions that are involved in the equation of this curve or surface.

The resistance *p*, encountered by a physical body moving with given velocity in a medium, is also a functional. The value of *p *is determined completely by the shape of the surface of this body, i.e. it is determined by choosing the function involved in the equation of this surface.

All these examples have one property in common that is in fact a characteristic feature of all functionals, and analogous to the characteristic feature of ordinary functions. Given a functional *v *= *v*(*y*(*x*)), to each function *y *= *y*(*x*) there corresponds a unique number *v*, just as when we have an ordinary

function *z *= *f*(*x*), to each number *x *there corresponds a unique number *z*.

The variational calculus gives methods for finding the maximal and minimal values of functionals. Problems that consist in finding maxima or minima of a functional are called *variational problems. *

The variational calculus has been developing since 1696, and it became an independent mathematical discipline with its own research methods after the fundamental discoveries of a member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences L. Euler (1707-1783), whom we can claim with good reason to be the founder of the calculus of variations.

The following three problems had considerable influence on the development of the calculus of variations.

The brachistochrone problem. In 1696 Johann Bernoulli published a paper, in which he suggested to mathematicians the problem of determining the path of quickest descent—the *brachistochrone. *This problem consists in finding which curve joining two given points *A *and *B*, not lying on the same vertical line, has the property that a massive particle sliding down along this curve from *A *to *B *reaches *B *in the shortest possible time (**Fig. 2). It is easy to see that a path of quickest slide down is not a straight line joining the points A and B even though the straight line is the shortest line joining these points. When moving down a straight line a particle picks up speed comparatively slowly. If the line is steeper near the start point A, then its length will increase, but greater part of it will be done with more speed. The solution of the brachistochrone problem was given by Johann Bernoulli, Jacob Bernoulli, Newton and de l’Hospital. It turned out that the curve of quickest descent is a cycloid (see p. 38). **

FIG. 2

FIG. 3

The problem of geodesics. This problem is to find the line of minimal length lying on a given surface *φ*(*x*, *y*, *z*) = 0 and joining two given points on this surface (**Fig. 3). Such lines are called geodesics. This is a typical example of a variational problem of finding constrained extrema. We have to find the minimum of the functional **

where the functions *y*(*x*) and *z*(*x*) must satisfy the condition *φ*(*x*, *y*, *z*) = 0. This problem was solved in 1697 by Johann Bernoulli, but a general method of solving this type of problem was given by L. Euler and J. Lagrange.

Isoperimetric problem. This problem is to find a closed curve of a given length *l*, encircling an area *S *that is maximal. It was known to the ancient Greeks, that such curve must be the circumference of a circle. The problem consists of finding the extrema of the functional *S*, under the additional condition that the length of the curve is constant, i.e. the functional

is kept constant. Such additional conditions are called *isoperimetric conditions. *The general methods of finding the solutions of problems with isoperimetric conditions were established in detail by L. Euler.

We shall now show some methods of solving various variational problems.

(***) Throughout this book the derivative with respect to t . **

**CHAPTER I **

**THE METHOD OF VARIATION **

**IN PROBLEMS WITH FIXED BOUNDARIES **

The methods of solving variational problems, i.e. problems consisting of finding the maxima or minima of functionals, are very much like those of finding maxima or minima of ordinary functions. Therefore, it is not without interest to recall briefly the theory of maxima and minima, of ordinary functions, and in parallel, to introduce the analogous notions for functionals and prove the analogous theorems.

This latter definition can be made more precise and clearer. The question arises which variations of the function *y*(*x*), that is itself an argument of a functional, are called small, or which curves *y *= *y*(*x*), *y *= *y*1(*x*) are considered close to each other.

One possibility is to assume that the functions *y*(*x*) and *y*1(*x*) are *close *to each other, whenever the absolute value of their difference, *y*(*x*) – *y*1(*x*) is small for all values of *x *for which the functions *y*(*x*) and *y*1(*x*) are defined, i.e. such curves are considered close to each other that are coordinatewise close. Yet in many problems it is better to consider that only such curves are close that are not only coordinatewise close, but in addition, whose tangent lines at corresponding points have directions close to each other. That is, in such problems, the curves are called close, when not only the absolute value of the difference *y*(*x*) – *y*1(*x*) is small, but also the

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