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Derivatives

4.1 Derivatives

Suppose f is a vector function and t 0 is a point in the interior of the domain of f

( t 0 in the interior of a set S of real numbers means there is an interval centered at t 0 that

is a subset of S.). The derivative is defined just as it is for a plain old everyday real

valued function, except, of course, the derivative is a vector. Specifically, we say that f is

differentiable at t 0 if there is a vector v such that

1

lim [ f (t 0 + h) − f (t 0 )] = v .

t → t0 h

Then

[ f (t 0 + h) − f (t 0 )] = 0 i + j + 0 k .

h h h h

It should now be clear that the vector function f is differentiable at t 0 if and only if each

of the coordinate functions a( t ), b(t ), and c(t ) is. Moreover, the vector derivative v is

Now we “know” what the derivative of a vector function is, and we know how to

compute it, but what is it, really? Let’s see. Let f (t ) = ti + t 3 j . This is, of course, a

vector function which describes the graph of the function y = x 3 . Let’s look at the

4.1

derivative of f at t 0 : v = i + 3t 02 j . Convince yourself that the direction of the vector v is

the direction tangent to the graph of y = x 3 at the point (t 0 , t 03 ) . It is not so clear what

we should define to be the tangent to a curve other than a plane curve. Again, vectors

come to our rescue. If f is a vector description of a space curve, the direction of the

derivative f '( t ) vector is the tangent direction at the point f (t ) -the derivative f '( t ) is

is the velocity of the particle, and its length | f '( t )| is the speed. Thus the distance the

particle travels from time t = a to time t = b is given by the integral of the speed:

d = ∫ | f '( t )| dt .

a

If the particle behaves nicely, this distance is precisely the length of the arc of the curve

from f (a ) to f (b) . It should be clear what we mean by “behaves nicely”. . For the

distance traveled by the particle to be the same as the length of its path, there must be no

“backtracking”, or reversing direction. This means we must not allow the velocity to be

zero for any t between a and b.

Example

Consider the function r(t ) = cos ti + sin tj . Then the derivative, or velocity, is

r'( t ) = − sin t i + cos tj . This vector is indeed tangent to the curve described by r (which

we already know to be a circle of radius 1 centered at the origin.) at r(t ) . Note that the

scalar product r(t ) ⋅ r'( t ) = − sin t cost + sin t cos t = 0 , and so the tangent vector and the

vector from the center of the circle to the point on the circle are perpendicular-a well-

known fact you learned from Mrs. Turner in 4th grade. Note that the derivative is never

4.2

zero-there is no value of t for which both cost and sint vanish. The length of a piece of the

curve can thus be found by integrating the speed:

2π 2π 2π

0 0 0

No surprise here.

Exercises

b)Find a vector equation for the line tangent to this same curve at the point (1, 1, 0).

b)Find the speed of the particle.

c)Describe the path of the particle, and find its length.

3. Let L be the line tangent to the curve g (t ) = 10 cos ti + 10 sin t j + 16tk at the point

10 10

( , ,4π ) . Find the point at which L intersects the i-j plane.

2 2

4. Let L be the straight line passing through the point (5, 0, 3) in the direction of the

vector a = i + 2 j − k , and let M be the straight line passing through the point (0, 0, 6)

in the direction of b = i − 3 j + 2k .

b)Do L and M intersect? Explain.

4.3

5. Let L be the straight line passing through the point (1, 1, 3) in the direction of the

vector a = 2 i + j − k , and let M be the straight line passing through the point (0, 1, 5)

6. Find the length of the arc of the curve R (t ) = 3cos t i + 3 sin t j + 4tk between the

7. Find an integral the value of which is the length of the curve y = x 2 between the

Let R(t ) be a vector description of a curve. Then the distance s(t ) along the

curve from the point R(t 0 ) to the point R(t ) is, as we have seen, simply

t

s(t ) = ∫ | R '( ξ )| dξ ;

t0

ds

=| R'( t )| .

dt

Now then the vector

R '( t ) R'( t ) dt dR

T= = = R'( t ) =

| R'( t )| ds / dt ds ds

is tangent to R and has length one. It is called the unit tangent vector.

4.4

d dT dT dT

T ⋅T = T ⋅ + ⋅ T = 2T ⋅ .

ds ds ds ds

dT dT

But we know that T ⋅ T = |T | 2 = 1. Thus T ⋅ = 0, which means that the vector is

ds ds

perpendicular, or orthogonal, or normal, to the tangent vector T. The length of this vector

dT

κ= .

ds

1 dT

N=

κ ds

is called the principal unit normal vector, and its direction is sometimes called the

principal normal direction.

Example

Consider the circle of radius a and center at the origin: R (t ) = a cost i + a sin t j .

ds

Then R '( t ) = − a sin ti + a cos tj , and = | R'( t )| = a 2 sin 2 t + a 2 cos 2 t = a 2 = | a| = a .

dt

Thus

1

T= R' (t ) = − sin ti + cost j .

a

dT dT dt 1 dT 1

= = = ( − cos t i − sin t j ) .

ds dt ds a dt a

4.5

dT 1

Thus κ = = , and N = − (cos t i + sin t j ) . So the curvature is the reciprocal of the

ds a

radius and the principal normal vector points back toward the center of the circle.

Another Example

ds

= | R'( t )| = 5 + 4t 2 . The unit tangent is then

dt

1

T= ( i + 2 j + 2tk ) .

5 + 4t 2

It’s a bit of a chore now to find the curvature and the principal normal, so let’s use a

computer algebra system; viz., Maple:

First, let’s enter the unit tangent vector T:

T(t);

A(t);

4.6

B(t);

dT

This vector is, of course, the normal . We continue and find the curvature κ and the

ds

principal normal N.

kappa:=t->simplify(sqrt(dotprod(B(t),B(t))));

kappa(t);

N(t);

ds

So there we have at last the speed , the unit tangent T, the curvature κ., and the

dt

principal normal N.

Exercises

through the point (5, -2, 15), or show there is no such line.

4.7

9. Find the unit tangent T, the principal normal N, and the curvature κ, for the curves:

a) R (t ) = 5 cos(t )i + 5 sin(t ) j + 2 tk

b) R (t ) = (2t + 3) i + (5 − t 2 ) j

c) R (t ) = e t cos t i + e t sin tj + 6k

11. Find the curvature of R (t ) = ti + t 2 j . At what point on the curve is the curvature the

largest? smallest?

12. Find the curvature of R (t ) = ti + t 3 j . At what point on the curve is the curvature the

largest? smallest?

Let R(t ) be a vector description of a curve. If T is the unit tangent and N is the

principal unit normal, the unit vector B = T × N is called the binormal. Note that the

dB

binormal is orthogonal to both T and N. Let’s see about its derivative with respect

ds

dB

to arclength s. First, note that B ⋅ B = | B|2 = 1, and so B ⋅ = 0 , which means that

ds

dB

being orthogonal to B, the derivative is in the plane of T and N. Next, note that B is

ds

dB

perpendicular to the tangent vector T, and so B ⋅ T = 0 . Thus ⋅ T = 0 . So what have

ds

4.8

dB

we here? The vector is perpendicular to both B and T, and so must have the

ds

direction of N (or, of course, - N). This means

dB

= −τ N .

ds

Example

Let’s find the torsion of the helix R (t ) = a cos ti + a sin tj + btk . Here we go!

ds

R '( t ) = − a sin ti + a cos tj + bk . Thus = | R'( t )| = a 2 + b 2 , and we have

dt

1

T= (− a sin t i + a cost j + bk ) .

a + b2

2

Now then

dT dT dt −a

= = 2 (cos ti + sin tj ) .

ds dt ds (a + b 2 )

Therefore,

a

κ= and N = − (cos t i + sin t j ) .

(a + b 2 )

2

4.9

i j k

1 1

B =T ×N = − a sin t a cos t b = (b sin ti − b cost j + ak ) ;

a2 + b2 a2 + b2

− cos t − sin t 0

and

dB dB dt b −b

= = 2 (cos ti + sin tj ) = 2 N.

ds dt ds ( a + b )

2

(a + b2 )

b

τ = .

a + b2

2

Suppose the curve R(t ) is such that the torsion is zero for all values of t. In other

dB

words, ≡ 0 . Look at

ds

d dR dB

[( R( t ) − R (t 0 )) ⋅ B] = ⋅ B + ( R( t ) − R (t 0 )) ⋅ = 0.

ds ds ds

all values of t. This means that R (t ) − R( t 0 ) and B are perpendicular for all t, and so

Exercises

13. Find the binormal and torsion for the curve R (t ) = 4 cos ti + 3sin tk .

sin t sin t

14. Find the binormal and torsion for the curve R (t ) = i + cos t j + k.

2 2

4.10

15. Find the curvature and torsion for R (t ) = ti + t 2 j + t 3 k.

1+ t 1− t 2

16. Show that the curve R (t ) = ti + j+ k lies in a plane.

t t

4.4 Motion

Suppose t is time and R(t ) is the position vector of a body. Then the curve

dR

described by R(t ) is the path, or trajectory, of the body, v( t ) = is the velocity, and

dt

dv ds

a(t ) = is the acceleration. We know that v( t ) = T , and so the direction of the

dt dt

velocity is the unit tangent T. Let’s see about the direction of the acceleration:

dv d 2 s ds dT

a( t ) = = 2T+

dt dt dt dt

2 ,

ds

2

d s

= 2 T + κN

dt dt

dT ds

since = κ N . This tells us that the acceleration is always in the plane of the

dt dt

d 2s

vectors T and N. The derivative of the speed is the tangential component of the

dt 2

2

ds

acceleration, and κ is the normal component of the acceleration.

dt

Example

4.11

Suppose a person who weighs 160 pounds moves around a circle having radius 20

feet at a constant speed of 60 miles/hour. What is the magnitude of the force on this

person at any time?

First, we know the force f is the mass times the acceleration: f (t ) = ma (t ) . Thus

2

d 2s ds

f =m T + mκ N

dt 2

dt

ds d 2s

= 88 and = 0 . Hence,

dt dt

2 2

ds ds

| f | =| mκ N | = mκ .

dt dt

160 1

The mass m = = 5 slugs, and the curvature κ = . The magnitude of the force is

32 20

5 ⋅882

thus | f |= = 1936 pounds.

20

Exercises

velocity, the speed, and the tangential and normal components of the acceleration.

4.12

20. A projectile of weight w is fired from the origin with an initial speed v0 in the

direction of the vector cosθ i + sin θ j , and the only force acting on the projectile is

f = −wj .

b)Find an equation the graph of which is the trajectory.

21. A 16 lb. bowling ball is rolled along a track with a circular vertical loop of radius a

feet. What must the speed of the ball be in order for it not to fall from the track?

What must the speed of an 8 lb. ball be in order for it not to fall?

4.13

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