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Vector Calculus by Stephen Cowley

Vector Calculus by Stephen Cowley

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Vector Calculus by Stephen Cowley
Vector Calculus by Stephen Cowley

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Poisson’s Equation. Applying the divergence theorem (6.1) to Gauss’ flux theorem we have that

V

( .g + 4πGρ)dτ = 0.

But this is true for all volumes V, hence

.g =−4πGρ.

(9.7a)

Further, we know from (9.2a) that g =− ϕ for a single point mass. On the assumption that this
result continues to hold on taking the continuum limit, e.g. because of the principle of superposition,
it follows from (9.7a) that in the continuum limit ϕ satisfies Poisson’s equation

2

ϕ = 4πGρ.

(9.7b)

The Solution in Unbounded Space. We have from (9.2b), and the principle of superposition, that for
more than one mass in unbounded space

ϕ(x) =−G

j

mj

|x−xj|.

We again take the continuum limit in a similar way to above, i.e. from using Taylor’s theorem and
in particular (1.62),

ϕ(x) =−G

N
i=1

xj∈Vi

mj

(x−ξ

i) + (ξ

i−xj)

small

=−G lim

N→∞
δτξ

i→0

N
i=1

ρ(ξ

i)δτξ

i

(x−ξ

i) +...

,

and hence the solution to (9.7b) is

ϕ(x) =−G

V

ρ(ξ)

|x−ξ|dτξ ,

(9.8)

where the volume integral extends over all regions where the density is non-zero.

Mathematical Tripos: IA Vector Calculus

119

c S.J.Cowley@damtp.cam.ac.uk, Lent 2000

Conditions at a Discontinuity in Density. Suppose that the density ρ is discontinuous (but bounded)
across a surface S. How do ϕ and ϕ vary across the discontinuity?

Let x0 be a point on the surface S. Surround x0
with a surface S that is a small squashed ‘pill-
box’ of cross-sectional area δA 1 and thickness
δn (δA)1

2. Let the enclosing volume be V, and

suppose that the normal of the cross-sectional faces
is aligned with the normal of the surface S at x0.
Then for a very squashed small pill box

S

g.dS ≈

n.g(x0+)−n.g(x0−) δA,

V

ρdτ

max

V

ρ

δnδA,

where g(x0+) and g(x0−) are, respectively, the values of g on the outside and inside of the surface

S at x0. On applying Gauss’ Flux Theorem (9.6) to S and factoring δA we have that
n.g(x0+)−n.g(x0−) = O(δn).

Thus, on taking the limit δn→0, we conclude that
n.g

x0+
x0

= 0,

(9.9)

i.e. that the normal component of the gravitational field is continuous across a surface of disconti-
nuity in ρ. Moreover, since g =− ϕ (see (9.2a)), this condition can also be expressed as

n. ϕ

x0+
x0

=

∂ϕ
∂n

x0+
x0

= 0,

(9.10)

i.e. the normal component of ϕ is continuous across a surface of discontinuity in ρ.

Further, supposeCis a straight line betweenxa andxb, where
the two ends are on either side of S. Then using (3.13)

ϕ(xa)−ϕ(xb) =

C

ϕ.dx |xb−xa| max

C

| ϕ|.

If we let xa →x0−and xb →x0+ it follows, on the assump-
tion that | ϕ| is bounded, that

ϕ

x0+
x0

= ϕ(x0+)−ϕ(x0−) = 0, (9.11)

i.e. that ϕ is continuous across a surface of discontinuity in ρ.

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