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III.

b The Fundamental Theorem for Vector Path Integrals


As mentioned above, in general nothing more can be done about calculating
_
C
ds or
_
C
F dr. However,
_
C
F dr can be evaluated, for some F, by a vector
analogy of the one dimensional result:
_
b
a
f

(t) dt = f(b) f(a).


Specically we have: Suppose F is a gradient eld (or a conservative eld), that is,
there is a function f(x, y, z) (called the potential ) such that F = f in some region
D of (x, y, z) space. Then for any path C (joining points P and Q in space), in D
we have
_
C
F dr = f(Q) f(P).
P
Q
( t = b )
C
( t = a )
D
To see this, note that if f = F, then
F dr =
_
M
dx
dt
+ N
dy
dt
+ P
dz
dt
_
dt
=
_
f
x
dx
dt
+
f
y
dy
dt
+
f
z
dz
dt
_
dt.
Now f is a function of (x, y, z) which on the path are functions of t. So, by the
chain rule,
df
dt
=
_
f
x
dx
dt
+
f
y
dy
dt
+
f
z
dz
dt
_
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and, nally,
_
C
F dr =
_
b
t=a
df
dt
dt = f(x(b), y(b), z(b)) f(x(a), y(a), z(a)) = f(Q) f(P).
This is a very useful result, since
_
C
F dr does not depend on the specic path C,
but only on the start/stop points. I.e., if there is an f, then we can replace C by any
other (simpler) path C
1
with the same start/stop points, and
_
C
F dr =
_
C
1
F dr.
C
C
1
Furthermore, if we can actually nd f, then
_
C
F dr is simply f(Q) f(P)! It can
also be shown that if
_
C
F dr is path independent, then there is a potential, but
this will not be of much interest to us in this course. We now concentrate on two
questions: When is there an f, and how to nd it.
Suppose rst there is an f. Then F = M i+N j+P k = (f/x) i+(f/y) j+
(f/z) k, and so

x
_
f
y
_
=

y
_
f
x
_
implies
N
x
=
M
y

y
_
f
z
_
=

z
_
f
y
_
implies
P
y
=
N
z

x
_
f
z
_
=

z
_
f
x
_
implies
P
x
=
M
z
.
So if there is an f in a region D then
N
x

M
y
,
P
y

N
z
,
P
x

M
z
.
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On the other hand consider these 3 equations. These may hold everywhere (i.e.,
for all (x, y, z)), or perhaps for some restricted (x, y, z). Suppose in the latter case
we focus on a region D of space where the three equations hold throughout, and
such that D has no holes. It can then be shown in theoretical courses that there is
a potential f in D. We remark that, unfortunately, there are problems of practical
relevance where we are actually interested in paths in a region with a hole in it!
We do not pursue this situation in general, but you will encounter it in complex
variable problems. Example 5 below shows what happens in a situation which is
typical. So if these three equations hold in a region D, and C is a path in D, then
_
C
F dr can be found by evaluating
_
C
1
F dr where C
1
is any other path in D with
the same starting/end point. Its even better however, if we can actually nd f,
for then
_
C
F dr = f(Q) f(P)! To nd f, proceed as follows: We must have
f/x = M and so f(x, y, z) =
_
M(x, y, z) dx + C(y, z). Note that since /x
treats any function of just y and z as a constant, C(y, z) plays the role of a pure
constant in the integration (with respect to x) formula. Now to nd C(y, z) use
rst the fact that
f
y
= N(x, y, z)

y
__
M(x, y, z) dx
_
+

y
[C(y, z)] ,
and, nally, use the third equation to determine C completely. This is much more
easily understood by looking at examples, which we now consider.
Last remarks: (1) If F is a gradient eld and P = Q (i.e., C is closed) then
_
C
F dr = 0.
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P = Q
(2) The elds you have already seen are probably conservative. For example,
in the case of gravity, the charge in potential energy only depends on the start-
ing/stopping altitudes not on the path taken.
Example 1. Determine if F = xyz i +(x
2
z/2 +y) j +(x
2
y/2) k is conservative. If
it is, nd the potential f.
Answer. Here M = xyz, N =
x
2
z
2
+ y, P =
x
2
y
2
. So
M
y
xz
N
x
,
M
z
xy
P
x
,
N
z

x
2
2

P
y
.
So, these equations are satised for any (x, y, z) and there is a potential f. Now
we nd it. We have f/x = M = xyz and so f =
_
xyz dx + C(y, z) and
f =
1
2
x
2
yz + C(y, z). Now f/y = N = x
2
z/2 + y but also
f
y
=
x
2
z
2
+
C
y
.
And so
x
2
z
2
+
C
y
=
x
2
z
2
+ y.
We conclude
C
y
= y
178
and thus
C =
y
2
2
+ H(z).
Note that H is not a function of x, since C is only a function of (y, z). Finally,
f
z
=
x
2
y
2

z
_
x
2
yz
2
+
y
2
2
+ H(z)
_
=
x
2
y
2
+
dH
dz
.
We match and conclude dH/dz = 0, i.e., H is a constant, i.e., H = K. We then
have
f =
x
2
yz
2
+
y
2
2
+ K.
Note that the potential contains an arbitrary constant K.
Remark. If in doubt about f being correct, just nd f and check it equals F!
Example 2. Evaluate
_
C
F dr if F = zye
xy
i + zxe
xy
j + e
xy
k and C is the path
_

_
x = sin
100
_
t

2
_
y = 1 t
200
z = cos
1000
_
t

2
_
0 t 1.
Answer. Can you imagine how dicult it would be to do this from the original
denition? I.e., by evaluating
_
1
t=0
[M
dx
dt
+ N
dy
dt
+ P
dz
dt
] dt? Instead we try to nd
f! Now
f
x
= zye
xy
= f = ze
xy
+ C(x, y).
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Next,
f
y
= zxe
xy
= zxe
xy
+
C
y
.
Thus C/y = 0 and C = H(z), so
f = ze
xy
+ H(z)
Finally,
f
z
= e
xy
= e
xy
+
dH
dz
,
and H(z) = K, a constant. We have f = ze
xy
+ K. Note that when t = 0 we are
at (0, 1, 1), when t = 1 we are at (1, 0, 0) so
_
C
F dr = f(1, 0, 0) f(0, 1, 1) = (0e
10
+ K) (1 e
01
+ K) = 1.
(Observe the arbitrary constant K cancels out.)
Example 3. Check if F = (y
2
+ z
2
) i + x
2
j + (z
2
y
2
) k is conservative, and, if
it is, nd the potential f.
Answer. Here
M
y
= 2y,
M
z
= 2z,
N
x
= 2x,
N
z
= 0,
P
x
= 0,
P
y
= 2y.
So we check:
M
y
=
N
x
= 2y = 2x
M
z
=
P
x
= 0 = 2z
N
z
=
P
y
= 0 = 2y.
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So for the three equations to hold we need x = y, z = 0, y = 0, i.e., x = y = z = 0.
But this is just one point, not a region, and we conclude that there is no f in any
region. In this case, the only way to calculate
_
C
F dr is to actually parametrize C
and proceed as in the previous section.
Example 4. In this example we focus on what happens if there is no f, but we
try to nd it anyway. So suppose F = x
3
i + (y
2
+ z) j z
2
k. (Note that
M
y
0
N
x

M
z
0
P
x

N
z
1,
P
y
0
so no f!) If we try to nd f anyway, then f/x = x
3
and so f = x
4
/4 + C(y, z).
Next, f/y = y
2
+ z C/y and so
C(y, z) =
_
(y
2
+ z) dy + H(z) =
y
3
3
+ zy + H(z).
So far, we have
f(x, y, z) =
x
4
4
+
y
3
3
+ zy + H(z)
and all seems ne. We thus move on to the last step:
f
z
= z
2
= y +
dH
dz
.
Now we are stuck: H is only a function of z, and yet we need dH/dz = z
2
y
(or H = z
3
/3 yz). The presence of y shows there is no H, and thus there
is no f (which we knew already anyway).
Example 5. Let C
1
be the upper unit semicircle and C
2
the lower unit semicircle
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as shown. Note that both paths join (1, 0) to (1, 0).
C
C
2
1
We evaluate
_
C
2
_
y
x
2
+ y
2
_
dx +
_
x
x
2
+ y
2
_
dy rst. Since C
2
is given by
_
x = cos t,
y = sin t
t 2,
we get
_
C
2
y
x
2
+ y
2
dx+
x
x
2
+ y
2
dy =
_
2

_
(sin t)(sint)
sin
2
t + cos
2
t
+
cos t cos t
sin
2
t + cos
2
t
_
dt =
_
2

dt = .
Also, C
1
is given by
_
x = cos t
y = sin t
0 t ,
and we have
_
C
1
=
_
C
1
=
_

0
sin
2
t + cos
2
t
sin
2
t + cos
2
t
dt = .
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So
_
C
1
=
_
C
2
, and yet

y
_
y
x
2
+ y
2
_
=
1
x
2
+ y
2
+
(y)(1)(2y)
(x
2
+ y
2
)
2
=
y
2
x
2
(x
2
+ y
2
)
2
,

x
_
x
x
2
+ y
2
_
=
1
x
2
+ y
2
+
x(1)(2x)
(x
2
+ y
2
)
2
=
y
2
x
2
(x
2
+ y
2
)
2
which shows that the partial derivatives are the same, except at (0, 0) where they
do not exist! Given the precise C
1
, C
2
of this example, we cannot place them both
in a region R with no holes in which the partial derivatives exist and are the same,
since R will need to contain C
1
, C
2
and yet avoid (0, 0). This is the reason why
_
C
1
=
_
C
2
. Note that if C
3
were a path as shown, then
_
C
1
=
_
C
3
since we can take
R to be the region shown (which has no holes).
C
C
C
1
2
3
R
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Further Exercises:
1) Determine if F = zx
2
i + zyj is conservative, and if it is, nd the potential f.
2) Determine if F = zx
2
i +zyj +(
x
3
3
+
y
2
2
)k is conservative, and if it is, nd the
potential f.
3) Find constant(s) k
1
, k
2
(if any) such that F = (e
2y
z
3
)i + (k
1
xe
2y
z
3
)j +
(k
2
xe
2y
1)z
2
k is conservative.
4) Find all constants k
1
, k
2
(if any) such that F = (e
x
2
y
2
)j+(k
1
yx)j+k
2
e
z
2
k
is conservative.
5) Find all constants k
1
, k
2
(if any) such that F = (sin(x
3
) yz)i + (xz)j +
(k
1
xy + k
2
xz)k is conservative.
6) Show that F = (
1
1+x
2
)i + (ye
y
2
+ e
z
)j + (ye
z
+
1
1+z
2
)k is conservative, and
nd the potential f.
7) Evaluate
_
C
F dr where F = (x
2
y
2
)i + (y
2
z
2
2xy)j + (z
2
2zy)k and
C is the path: x = e
t
2
, y = sin(
t
100

2
), z = t
99
from t = 0 to t = 1.
8) Let F = yzi + xzj + (xy + z)k. Find the potential f and evaluate
_
C
F dr
where C denotes any path from (0, 0, 0) to (1, 2, 3).
9) Same as problem 8 if F = cos xe
sinx
y
2
ln(z
2
+ 1)i + 2ye
sinx
ln(1 + z
2
)j +
(y
2
e
sinx 2z
z
2
+1
+ z
3
)k.
10) Same as problem 8 if F = (y + z + 2x)i + (x + z + 4y)j + (x + y + 8z)k.
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