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Scalar and Vector Fields

Scalar Field :
A scalar quantity, smoothly assigned to each
point of a certain region of space is called a
scalar field
Examples :
i) Temperature and pressure distribution in
the atmosphere
ii) Gravitational potential around the earth
iii) Assignment to each point, its distance
from a fixed point
2 2 2
z y x r + + =
O
O
) , , ( z y x
) , , ( z y x f
x
z
y
Once a coordinate system is set up, a
scalar field is mathematically represented
by a function : ) ( ) , , ( r f z y x f

is the value of the scalar

assigned to the point (x,y,z)
) , , ( z y x f
A smooth scalar field implies that the
function , is a smooth or
differentiable function of its arguments,
x,y,z.
) , , ( z y x f
Since the scalar field has a definite value at
each point, we must have
) , , ( ) , , ( z y x f z y x f
' ' ' '
=
O
) , , ( z y x f
' ' ' '
Consider two coordinate systems.
x
y
z
z
'
y
'
x
'
) , , ( z y x f
Vector Fields :
A vector quantity, smoothly assigned to
each point in a certain region of space is
called a vector field
Examples :
i) Electric field around a charged body
ii) Velocity variation within a steady
flow of fluid
iii) Position vector assigned to each point
O
r

Once a coordinate system is fixed, a vector

field is mathematically represented by a
vector function of position coordinates :
) ( ) , , ( r F or z y x F

O
) (r F

Resolving the vector at each point into its

three components, the vector field can be
written as :
k z y x F j z y x F i z y x F z y x F
z y x

) , , (

) , , (

) , , ( ) , , ( + + =

A smooth vector field implies that the three

functions, , are smooth or
differentiable functions of the three
coordinates x,y,z.
z y x
F F F & ,
) , ( sin ) , ( cos ) , ( y x F y x F y x F
y x x
u u + =
' ' '
) , ( cos ) , ( sin ) , ( y x F y x F y x F
y x y
u u + =
' ' '
x
y
F

x
'
y
'
u
How Are the Component Functions in Two
Frames Related to One another?
In Three Dimensions :
z y x x
F R F R F R F
13 12 11
+ + =
'
z y x y
F R F R F R F
23 22 21
+ + =
'
z y x z
F R F R F R F
33 32 31
+ + =
'
Matrix Rotation
R R R
R R R
R R R
R
|
|
|
.
|

\
|

33 32 31
23 22 21
13 12 11
dz
z
f
dy
y
f
dx
x
f
r f r d r f df
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
= + = ) ( ) (

O
r

r d r

+
r d

( ) k dz j dy i dx k
z
f
j
y
f
i
x
f

+ +
|
|
.
|

\
|
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
=
r d f

V =
Where, we have the shorthand notation :
f k
z
f
j
y
f
i
x
f
V
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c

Since is a vector assigned to each point
f V

it defines a vector field. This vector field is

called the gradient of the scalar field
f
We have
df
( ) )

n ds r d ds n f r d f = V = V =

n f
ds
df
n

V =
|
.
|

\
|

That is, the rate of change of a scalar field in
any direction at a point, is the component of
the gradient of the field in the given direction,
at that point.
Thus, gradient of a scalar field at any point
may be defined as a vector, whose
direction is the direction in which the scalar
increases most rapidly, and whose
magnitude is the maximum rate of change
f
ds
df
n f
ds
df
n
V = V =
|
.
|

\
|

max

And the maximum value occurs when

is in the same direction as
n

f V

Ex. 1.3
Find the gradient of the scalar field :
2 2 2
) ( z y x r r f + + = =

and show that it has the properties as

stated.
Prob. 1.12
The height of a certain hill (in feet) is given
by :
) 12 28 18 4 3 2 ( 10 ) , (
2 2
+ + = y x y x xy y x h
where x & y are distances (in miles)
measured along two mutually perpendicular
directions from a certain point.
(c) How steep is the hill at the place (1 mi, 1 mi)
(d) In which direction, must one move at this point
so that the slope is 220 ft/mi
x
y
) , ( y x h
-
x
y
) , ( y x h
Further Examples :
) ( ) ( r F r f

= V
b) Let
Then
) ( ) ( ) r r F r r f i
'
=
'
V

) ( ) ( ) r r F r r f ii
'
=
'
V
'

g
dg
df
r g f a V = V

)) ( ( )
Prob. 1.13
Let r be the separation vector from a fixed
point to the point and let r
be its length. Find :
) , , ( z y x
' ' '
) , , ( z y x
V

a) (r
2
)
V

b) (1/r)
V

c) (r
n
)
The Del Operator
The gradient of a scalar field can be
thought of as the result of the vector
differential operator :
z
k
y
j
x
i
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
V

f
z
k
y
j
x
i f
|
|
.
|

\
|
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
= V

The gradient (2-dim) will be a vector field, if,

at every point in space, we have :
y
f
x
f
x
f
c
c
+
c
c
=
'
c
'
c
u u sin cos
y
f
x
f
y
f
c
c
+
c
c
=
'
c
'
c
u u cos sin
Is the Gradient of a Scalar Field a Vector
Field?
Prob. 1.14
1. The line integral of the gradient of a
scalar field from one point to another, is
independent of the path of integration
(it depends only on the two points)
) ( ) (
1 2
2 1
P f P f l d f l d f
C C
= V = V
} }

1
C
2
C
1
P
2
P
2. Line integral of the gradient around a
closed path is zero
}
= V 0 l d f

3. If the line integral of a vector field from
one point to another is independent of the
path joining them, then that vector field
must be the gradient of a scalar field.
) , , ( z y x
: ) , , ( z y x f field scalar the Construct
}
=
) , , (
) 0 , 0 , 0 (
) , , (
z y x
l d F z y x f

) , , ( int z y x po the to origin
the connecting path arbitrary any is path the where
Proof :
Let be a vector field whose line integral
is path independent.
F

} } }
' '
+
' '
+
' '
=
x
y
z
z y x
z d z y x F y d y x F x d x F z y x f
0 0 0
) , , ( ) 0 , , ( ) 0 , 0 , ( ) , , (
) , , ( z y x
) 0 , 0 , (x
) 0 , , ( y x
Choosing the path as above
To show :
F f

= V
) , , ( z y x F
z
f
z
=
c
c

Similarly, choosing the paths as below,

) , , ( z y x
) 0 , 0 , (x
) , 0 , ( z x
) , , ( z y x
) , , 0 ( z y
) , 0 , 0 ( z
x y
F
x
f
F
y
f
=
c
c
=
c
c
&
f F V =

) , , ( z y x
) , , (
0 0 0
z y x
}
=
) , , (
) , , (
0 0 0
) , , (
z y x
z y x
l d F z y x g

However, the scalar field, whose gradient
is the vector field , is not unique. F

We still have :
g F V =

}
+ =
) , , (
) 0 , 0 , 0 (
0 0 0
) , , ( ) , , (
z y x
l d F z y x g z y x f

C z y x g + = ) , , (
However,
That is, the two scalar fields, which give us
the same vector field as their gradient, differ
from each other by a constant.
If the scalar field is constructed as :
}
=
) , , (
) , , (
0 0 0
) , , (
z y x
z y x
l d F z y x f

then :
0 ) , , (
0 0 0
= z y x f
Since are arbitrary, the zero
of the scalar field is arbitrary.
0 0 0
& , z y x
Level or constant surfaces of a scalar field
Given a scalar field , the locus of all points which
satisfy the condition :
) , , ( z y x f
C z y x f = ) , , (
defines a surface, known as the level or constant
surface of the field
C z y x f = ) , , (
1
C
2
C
3
C
) , , ( ) , , (
0 0 0
z y x f z y x f =
Through every point in space,
one can draw a level surface of :
) , , (
0 0 0
z y x
f
Level surfaces of the scalar field :
2 2 2
) , , ( z y x z y x f + + =
4. The gradient of a scalar field, at each
point in space, is perpendicular to the level
surface (constant surface) of the scalar
field, passing through that point
. ) , , ( Const z y x f =
( )
P
f V

P
Ex.: Find the unit normal to the surface :
2 2
y x z + =
Given the three components of a vector
field, , one can construct nine
first derivatives :
z y x
F F F & ,
z
F
y
F
x
F
z x x
c
c
c
c
c
c
., .......... , ,
What scalar and vector fields can be
constructed out of these nine first
derivatives?
Divergence and Curl of a Vector Field

Correction!
x
y
' x
' y
) , (
0 0
y x
Coordinate Transformation Equations
; ) ( sin ) ( cos
0 0
y y x x x + =
'
u u
) ( cos ) ( sin
0 0
y y x x y + =
'
u u
; sin cos
0
x y x x +
'

'
= u u
0
cos sin y y x y +
'
+
'
= u u
It turns out that only one scalar field and
one vector field can be constructed out of
these nine first derivatives :
Divergence :
z
F
y
F
x
F
F
z
y
x
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
V

Curl :

k
y
F
x
F
j
x
F
z
F
i
z
F
y
F
F
x
y
z x
y
z

|
|
.
|

\
|
c
c

c
c
+
|
.
|

\
|
c
c

c
c
+
|
|
.
|

\
|
c
c

c
c
V

( ) k F j F i F
z
k
y
j
x
i F
z y x

+ +
|
|
.
|

\
|
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
= V

( ) k F j F i F
z
k
y
j
x
i F
z y x

+ +
|
|
.
|

\
|
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
= V

z y x
F F F
z y x
k j i
c
c
c
c
c
c
=

Example :
Let the vector field be : r r F

= ) (
3 = V F

0

= V F
Surface Integral of a Vector Field
F

a d

S
}

S
a d F

i) Gauss Divergence Theorem :

S V
d F a d F t

V
S
Here, is any vector field and , any
closed surface
F

S
Two Important Theorems
a d

A Simple Application of Divergence Theorem

General Proof of Archimedes Principle
} }
= =
S S
b
a d P F d F

x
y
z
F d

da
h
) ( ) ( z h g z P =
ii) Stokes Curl Theorem
l d

a d

} }
V =
C S
a d F l d F

) (
Here, C is any closed loop (planar or
otherwise), and S is any surface bounded by
the loop.
Second Derivatives
field Vector f V

2
2
2
2
2
2
) (
z
f
y
f
x
f
f
c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
= V V

i)
f
2
V =
Where is a second
derivative operator, known as the Laplacian.
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
z y x c
c
+
c
c
+
c
c
V
ii)
0

V V f
field scalar A F V

( ) V V F

a legitimate vector field, which
is not much used.
field vector A F V

( ) 0 ) V V F i

( ) ( ) F F F ii

2
) V V V = V V
Certain Product Rules
) ( ) ( ) ( . 1 f g g f fg V + V = V

) ( ) ( ) ( . 2 A B B A B A

V + V = V
A B B A

) ( ) ( V + V +
) ( ) ( ) ( . 3 f F F f F f V + V = V

) ( ) ( ) ( . 4 B A A B B A

V V = V
Prob. 1.60
Show that
} }
= V
V S
a d T d T a

t ) ( ) (
Hence show that :
0

}
= =
S
a d a
Prob. 1.61b :
Prob. 1.61c :
a

is the same for all

surfaces sharing the
same boundary.
Prob. 1.61a : Find the vector area of a
hemispherical bowl
Back to Prob. 1.60
} }
= V
V S
a d F d F b

t ) ( ) (
} }
V V = V V
V S
a d T U U T d T U U T d

) ( ) ( ) (
2 2
t
Prob. 1.61d
Show that :
}
= l d r a

2
1
Proof :
} }
V =
C S
a d r A l d r A

)] ( [ ) (
Use the product rule :

B A A B B A

) ( ) ( ) ( V V = V
) ( ) ( A B B A

V V +
Two Important Results
i) If the Curl of a vector field vanishes, then
that vector field must be the gradient of a
scalar field :
f F t s f F V = - = V

. . 0
We have seen :
( ) ( ) 0 ) 0 ) = V V = V V F ii f i

The converse results are also true.
ii) If the Divergence of a vector field
vanishes, then the vector field must be the
Curl of a scalar field :
G F t s G F

V = - = V . . , 0
Theorem I : The following statements are
equivalent.
(A) Vector field is such that its line integral
around any closed path is zero
F

field
F

(B) Vector field is such that its line integral

from one point to another is independent of
the path joining the two.
F

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( D C B A
Or
) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( A D C B A
(D) Vector field is such that it has a
vanishing curl
F