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Differentiation of coordinate wrt another coordinate

  1. Apr 13, 2014 #1
    When I take the differential of y wrt t (being t a parameter (time)) I get the velocity of the y-coordinate, if take the second differential of y wrt t, thus I get the aceleration of the y-coordinate... ok! But what means to differentiate the y-coordinate wrt x-coordinate, or wrt y, or then differentiate twice wrt to y, or x, or xy. ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2014 #2


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    Do you mean the derivative or the differential?
    A common situation would be if the movement is constrained so that
    by the Implicit function theorem we can think of x and y as each being functions of time, or as being functions of each other.
  4. Apr 13, 2014 #3
    lurflurf has answered the question nicely.

    I would add the following link, which is the most beautiful explanation of partial derivatives which I've encountered.
  5. Apr 14, 2014 #4
    differential in the inverse sense of integral, ie, "the differential of f wrt to x results the derivative of f"...

    His answer did not clear anything to me. You text-link is very big, gives to summarize?
  6. Apr 14, 2014 #5
    It is good to picture the situation: What you have is the plane ##\mathbb R ^2## and points ##(x,y)## on that plane. Then you put a curve ##\gamma## into that plane via
    \gamma(t)= (x(t), y(t)) \, .
    Taking the derivative with respect to time gives you the velocity $$\dot \gamma (t)$$. Getting rid of the parameter by solving y for x gives you the (image of the) curve without telling you how fast you go along that curve. Then differentiating ##y## with respect to ##x## tells you the slope of that curve at point ##(x, y(x))##. For simplicity I assumed there is only on ##y## value corresponding to a given ##x##-value.
  7. Apr 14, 2014 #6
    From the top of the link:

    Executive summary: Partial derivatives have many important uses in math and science. We shall see that a partial derivative is not much more or less than a particular sort of directional derivative. The only trick is to have a reliable way of specifying directions ... so most of this note is concerned with formalizing the idea of direction. This results in a nice graphical representation of what “partial derivative” means. Perhaps even more importantly, the diagrams go hand-in-hand with a nice-looking exact formula in terms of wedge products.

    My summary: If you really want to understand partial derivatives, this link is a good reference.
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