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In general, one uses dierential equations (and the methods we have developed for their solution) when a function is described by conditions on its rate of change, but one wishes to nd a closed form expression for the function.

Free fall

An object falling in a vacuum subject to a constant gravitational force accelerates at a constant rate. If the object were to be dropped from rest and to attain a velocity of 5m/s after one second, how fast would it be traveling after ve seconds?

Solution

Let v(t) be the velocity at time t seconds measured in meters per second. Then we know that v(0) = 0, that v(1) = 5, and that v = 0 (the acceleration, the rate of change of the velocity, so v , is constant). Integrating the equation v = 0 with respect to t, we see that v (t) v (0) = 0. Thus, if C1 = v (0), we have v (t) = C1 . Integrating again, we see that v(t) v(0) = C1 t. Setting C2 := v(0), we have v(t) = C2 + C1 t. Evaluating at 0 and 1 we have 0 = v(0) = C2 + C1 (0) = C2 and 5 = v(1) = C2 + C1 (1) = 0 + C1 = C1 . Thus, v(t) = 5t so that v(5) = 25.

An object performing a free fall subject to a constant gravitational force in a viscous uid is slowed by a drag which is proportional to its velocity. Find a general expression for the velocity of such an object.

Solution

Let be the constant rate of gravitational acceleration, the constant of proportionality for the drag force, and v0 the initial velocity. Then the velocity, v, satises

acceleration

= [ constant gravitational acceleration ] [ drag ] = [ constant gravitational acceleration ] [ a quantity proportional to the velocity ]

Solution, continued

In symbols, v = v or v + v = . This is a linear rst order dierential equation which we may solve using the method integration factors. Here A(t) = t and

T 0

et dt =

T (e

1).

So, v(t) = v0 et + (1 et ).

Loan repayment

A loan has a xed interest rate of 5 % (the interest is compounded continuously) and the borrower repays the loan at a constant rate of $10,000 dollars per year. If the initial value of the loan was $100,000, when will the debt be retired?

Solution

Let y(t) be the remaining principal at time t years. We were told that y(0) = 100, 000 and we wish to nd t so that y(t) = 0.

= [ rate of new debt due to interest ] [ rate at which the debt is paid ]

Solution, continued

In symbols, y = (0.05)y 10, 000 or y (0.05)y = 10, 000.

d As dt ((0.05)t) = 0.05, we see that y(t) = 200, 000 100, 000e0.05t .

t 20

= 20 ln(2) 13.86.

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