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, or sometimes

or

(Abramowitz and Stegun 1972, p. 1020), and also known as the "unit step function." The term

"Heaviside step function" and its symbol can represent either a piecewise constant function or a

generalized function.

When defined as as a piecewise constant function, the Heaviside step function is given by

(1)

(Abramowitz and Stegun 1972, p. 1020; Bracewell 2000, p. 61). The plot above shows this

function (left figure), and and how it would appear if displayed on an oscilloscope (right figure).

When defined as a generalized function, it can be defined as a function

such that

(2)

for

the derivative of a sufficiently smooth function

(Kanwal 1998).

UnitStep to represent the piecewise function Piecewise[ 1, x >= 0 ] (which, it should be

noted, adopts the convention

instead of the conventional definition

).

(3)

is sometimes also used.

The Heaviside step function is related to the boxcar function by

(4)

and can be defined in terms of the sgn function by

(5)

The derivative of the step function is given by

(6)

where

by

(7)

by

(8)

(9)

where denotes convolution.

Bracewell (2000) gives many identities, some of which include the following. Letting denote the

convolution,

(10)

(11)

(12)

(13)

(14)

In addition,

(15)

(16)

(17)

(18)

(19)

(20)

(21)

(22)

(23)

(24)

(25)

(26)

(27)

(28)

where

is the erfc function,

is the sine integral,

is the sinc function, and

is the

one-argument triangle function. The first four of these are illustrated above for

, 0.1, and

0.01.

Of course, any monotonic function with constant unequal horizontal asymptotes is a Heaviside

step function under appropriate scaling and possible reflection. The Fourier transform of the

Heaviside step function is given by

(29)

(30)

where

SEE ALSO: Absolute Value, Boxcar Function, Delta Function, Fourier Transform--Heaviside

Step Function, Ramp Function, Rectangle Function, Sgn, Sigmoid Function, Square Wave,

Triangle Function

RELATED WOLFRAM SITES: http://functions.wolfram.com/GeneralizedFunctions/UnitStep/,

http://functions.wolfram.com/GeneralizedFunctions/UnitStep2/

REFERENCES:

Abramowitz, M. and Stegun, I. A. (Eds.). Handbook of Mathematical Functions with Formulas,

Graphs, and Mathematical Tables, 9th printing. New York: Dover, 1972.

Bracewell, R. "Heaviside's Unit Step Function,

." The Fourier Transform and Its

Applications, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 61-65, 2000.

Kanwal, R. P. Generalized Functions: Theory and Technique, 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Birkhuser,

1998.

Spanier, J. and Oldham, K. B. "The Unit-Step

and Related Functions." Ch. 8 in An Atlas

of Functions. Washington, DC: Hemisphere, pp. 63-69, 1987.

Weisstein, Eric W. "Heaviside Step Function." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/HeavisideStepFunction.html

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