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Math Help - Continuity and Physics

  1. #1
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    Continuity and Physics

    How do I know if F is continuous or not?

    The gravitational force exerted by the Earth on a unit mass at a distance r from the center of the planet is

    f(x)=\left\{\begin{array}{cc}\frac{GMr}{R^3}, &\mbox{ if }r<R\\\frac{GM}{r^2}, &\mbox { if }r\geq R\end{array}\right

    where M is the mass of Earth, R is its radius, and G is the gravitational constant. Is F a continuous function of r?

    BTW, if you can't read it, it is

    \frac{GMr}{R^3} and \frac{GM}{r^2}
    Last edited by c_323_h; June 11th 2006 at 08:39 AM.
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  2. #2
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    or is everything in nature continuous?
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by c_323_h
    How do I know if F is continuous or not?

    The gravitational force exerted by the Earth on a unit mass at a distance r from the center of the planet is

    f(x)=\left\{\begin{array}{cc}\frac{GMr}{R^3}, &\mbox{ if }r<R\\\frac{GM}{r^2}, &\mbox { if }r\geq R\end{array}\right
    You look at what happens to f(r) as r approaches
    R form above and below. If both the limits are equal and
    finite then f is continuous at r=R.

    RonL
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    Grand Panjandrum
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    Quote Originally Posted by c_323_h
    or is everything in nature continuous?
    In this case the rate of change of force is not continuous.

    RonL
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by c_323_h
    or is everything in nature continuous?
    There is a dictum in physics that everything natural is countinous.
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  6. #6
    Grand Panjandrum
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThePerfectHacker
    There is a dictum in physics that everything natural is countinous.
    So that proves that my bank balance is unnatural?

    RonL
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainBlack
    You look at what happens to f(r) as r approaches
    R form above and below. If both the limits are equal and
    finite then f is continuous at r=R.

    RonL
    Do I plug in arbitrary numbers to do this? I don't quite understand how I'm supposed to find the limits using letters.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by c_323_h
    Do I plug in arbitrary numbers to do this? I don't quite understand how I'm supposed to find the limits using letters.
    In this particular case it is sufficient to put r=R in both
    expressions and find they take the same value.

    This is OK because the two forms are both in themselves continuous at
    r=R.

    RonL
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  9. #9
    Forum Admin topsquark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThePerfectHacker
    There is a dictum in physics that everything natural is countinous.
    Well, let's not be too hasty about that. Quantum field theory seems to imply that there is a "cut-off" level in the structure of space-time. i.e. It appears that space-time has a non-continuous structure at extremely small scales. (This is, at least, one of the more reasonable ways to remove the ultraviolet divergent integrals.)

    For a more basic example, consider an object falling into water. The speed function is certainly continuous, but the acceleration function has a discontinuity at the water-air interface.

    -Dan
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by topsquark
    Well, let's not be too hasty about that. Quantum field theory seems to imply that there is a "cut-off" level in the structure of space-time. i.e. It appears that space-time has a non-continuous structure at extremely small scales. (This is, at least, one of the more reasonable ways to remove the ultraviolet divergent integrals.)

    For a more basic example, consider an object falling into water. The speed function is certainly continuous, but the acceleration function has a discontinuity at the water-air interface.

    -Dan

    the acceleration is contiuens, but her derivation is not
    similar to gibbs affect in fourier series
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    Quote Originally Posted by mooshazz
    the acceleration is contiuens, but her derivation is not
    similar to gibbs affect in fourier series
    Gibbs phenomenon - the maximum error of a truncated Fourier series
    at a step discontinuity is independent of the number of terms and
    proportional to the size of the step?

    RonL
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  12. #12
    Forum Admin topsquark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mooshazz
    the acceleration is contiuens, but her derivation is not
    similar to gibbs affect in fourier series
    The acceleration cannot be continuous. Before the object hits the water the magnitude of the acceleration is g, but after it is in the water the acceleration is g-B/m, where B is the bouyant force and m is the mass. Thus there is a discrete step in the acceleration function at the interface.

    -Dan

    Addendum: Apologies!

    I was thinking about this again. I had taken the above argument from a problem I had seen worked out several years ago, but it didn't address the following issue: the bouyant force is increasing from zero from the time the object strikes the water until the time it is fully submerged. Thus the acceleration IS in fact continuous as mooshazz stated. It is presumably possible to have an object of such a shape that the bouyant force would be a C^{\infty} function of time, but this would not hold true for a general object. Thus we can state that some derivative of the acceleration function will be discontinous, probably the first derivative for an ordinary object (that is to say an object with the typically random shape found in nature).

    -Dan
    Last edited by topsquark; June 16th 2006 at 10:23 AM. Reason: Thought about it again
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