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Differential equation - Reduction of order

  1. Nov 2, 2013 #1

    i have to reduce the order of a 2nd order differential equation, to solve it with a numerical method.
    The equation is:


    with [itex]a,b\geq0[/itex]

    I tried to reduce it substituting [itex]\dot{r}=v[/itex], but i don't know what to do with the term [itex]\frac{b}{r^{2}}[/itex] .

    Can someone explain me what i should do?

    Thank you,

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2013 #2


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    In general, you can't just reduce the order of a differential equation. What you can do is convert a second order equation to two first order differential equations or, equivalently to a two dimensional vector equation. Here, if you let v= r', then r''= v' so your first equation becomes, as you saw, v'+ av+ b/r^2= 0 and your second equation is r'= v. Equivalently, if we think of vector, V, as being [itex]\begin{bmatrix}r(t) \\ v(t)\end{bmatrix}[/itex] we have the vector equation
    [tex]V'= \begin{bmatrix}r(t) \\ v(t) \end{bmatrix}'= \begin{bmatrix}-v- b/r^2 \\ v\end{bmatrix}[/tex]
  4. Nov 2, 2013 #3
    Hi !
    Another manner to present it :
    Let dr/dt = Y(r)
    d²r/dt² = d(Y(r))/dt = (dY/dr)*(dr/dt) = (dY/dr)*Y
    r''+a*r'+b/r² = (dY/dr)*Y+a*Y+b/r²
    Y' Y + a Y = -b/r² is an first order ODE, where Y(r) is the unknown function.
    Solving it leads to Y(r)
    Then dt = dr/Y(r)
    But the analytic integration of 1/Y(r) will probably be too arduous. That is the raison why numerical solving of the first order ODE is more realisic in practice.
  5. Nov 3, 2013 #4
    Thank you JJacquelin and HallsofIvy for your answers. The most useful form is the first one, in the matrix form. I will put it into a f90 program to simulate a body orbiting around a planet with air drag... now it's time to find the right units to avoid problems with my pc, let's see what will happen!
  6. Nov 4, 2013 #5


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    But shouldn't it read
    [tex]V'=\begin{bmatrix} r' \\ v' \end{bmatrix}
    =\begin{bmatrix} v \\ r'' \end{bmatrix}
    =\begin{bmatrix} v \\ -a v-b/r^2 \end{bmatrix}[/tex]
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