# How Does Gradient Impact Sphere Rolling Direction on a Surface?

• uzman1243
In summary: It's really a vector in the xy plane. So what you need is a vector in the z plane, with the magnitude of - grad f.
uzman1243
Assume perfect sphere lands on a surface given by the function
z = 2x2 -3y2 at point (2,1,5). I am trying to find a unit vector of the direction in which this perfect sphere will roll.

If I get grad F I'll get a vector field that is perpendicular to the level curves f(x,y) = z = 2x2 -3y2. This is going to be the steepest ascent. Thus negative grad F should give the steepest descent.

However, this is still a normal to the level surface. How do I find the direction in which it will roll along the surface?

PS. this is not a homework question. I was studying some differential geometry over the holidays and this problem was given in the book.

How about if I do this:
Find a tangent plane to the surface at point p. Then vector project negative grad f onto the plane?

uzman1243 said:
How about if I do this:
Find a tangent plane to the surface at point p. Then vector project negative grad f onto the plane?
OK this cannot be done. Any other ideas?

Use the fact that the magnitude of the gradient is the slope of the function z(x,y).

Can you please elaborate a bit more?

Take a vector (a, b, c).

a and b are the x and y components of the gradient. What must c be in order for this vector to point along the surface? You can calculate this from the fact that the rate of change of z along the gradient is √(a2 + b2).

I can't give you a complete solution though, as for simple text-book problems like this, the forum rule is that we can only provide help. However, try to use the hint above, and if you can't figure it out, tell me what you tried to do, and I can help you further.

dx said:
Take a vector (a, b, c).

a and b are the x and y components of the gradient. What must c be in order for this vector to point along the surface? You can calculate this from the fact that the rate of change of z along the gradient is √(a2 + b2).

I can't give you a complete solution though, as for simple text-book problems like this, the forum rule is that we can only provide help. However, try to use the hint above, and if you can't figure it out, tell me what you tried to do, and I can help you further.

f (x,y) = z = 2x^{2} - 3y^{2}

Assume those are level curves of the function. Grad F is going to give me a vector that is perpendicular at point a (if substitute point a coordinates to equation)

Thus if I get negative grade f, shouldn't that give me the direction in which it will roll?

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You calculated the divergence, not the gradient. The gradient is a vector, with two components.

This is a vector in the xy plane, so it doesn't have a component in the z direction. You are looking for a vector that points along the surface z(x,y), i.e. a 3-vector with 3 components.

Now we have a vector already that points in the direction that we want, at least as far as its x and y components are concerned. Now all we need to do is find the z component, to make it a 3-vector.

So, for our problem, we need a vector of the form (4x, -6y, c)

What must c be, to make this vector lie along the tangent plane of f? The tangent plane has a slope which is the magnitude of grad f. So what would c have to be, to make the slope of the vector (4x, -6y, c) come out correctly? i.e. to make it lie along the tangent plane?

dx said:
You calculated the divergence, not the gradient. The gradient is a vector, with two components.
Can you explain this part for me? Yes I calculated the divergence. Isn't the divergence a vector in the x-y plane?

dx said:
What must c be, to make this vector lie along the tangent plane of f? The tangent plane has a slope which is the magnitude of grad f. So what would c have to be, to make the slope of the vector (4x, -6y, c) come out correctly? i.e. to make it lie along the tangent plane?

So the magnitude will be sqrt ( (4x)^2 + (-6y)^2 ) which is equal to c?

Also, I am posting the question and answer as given in the book:

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In your first post, you said you wanted the direction along the surface. If you just want the direction in the xy plane, then that is simply the negative of grad f, as you said. You divide each component by the magnitude to make this a unit vector, as was done in the answer you posted.

I made a mistake in calling 4x - 6y the divergence. That is not true. The divergence is defined for vector fields, not for functions.

However, the gradient 'grad f' is not 4x - 6y, it is 4xi - 6yj as the answer you posted shows.

uzman1243 said:
So the magnitude will be sqrt ( (4x)^2 + (-6y)^2 ) which is equal to c?

The slope of the vector is c/√((4x)2 + (-6y)2), which must be equal to √((4x)2 + (-6y)2), so

c = √((4x)2 + (-6y)2)√((4x)2 + (-6y)2)

= (4x)2 + (-6y)2

dx said:
In your first post, you said you wanted the direction along the surface. If you just want the direction in the xy plane, then that is simply the negative of grad f, as you said. You divide each component by the magnitude to make this a unit vector, as was done in the answer you posted.

Ah yes. I misread the question. I wanted it along the surface where as the question just wanted the direction it will roll.

dx said:
I made a mistake in calling 4x - 6y the divergence. That is not true. The divergence is defined for vector fields, not for functions.

However, the gradient 'grad f' is not 4x - 6y, it is 4xi - 6yj as the answer you posted shows.

Isnt grad f = grad . f? It gives the same answer right? Or is this the difference:
where as grad . f gives scalar?

Yes, ∇⋅F is a scalar, and ∇f is a vector.

Here F is a vector field and f is a scalar field.

Divergence only applies to vector fields, not scalar fields.

dx said:
Yes, ∇⋅F is a scalar, and ∇f is a vector.

Here F is a vector field and f is a scalar field.

Divergence only applies to vector fields, not scalar fields.

Awesome. Thank you so much

## 1. What is the definition of "Grad F of a level curve?"

The gradient of a function, or Grad F, is a vector that represents the rate and direction of change of the function at a specific point. The level curve of a function is a set of points where the function has the same value.

## 2. How is the gradient of a function calculated for a level curve?

The gradient of a function can be calculated by taking the partial derivatives of the function with respect to each variable and then combining them into a vector. This vector represents the direction of greatest change of the function at a specific point on the level curve.

## 3. What is the significance of the gradient of a function for a level curve?

The gradient of a function is important for level curves because it can give information about the slope and direction of the curve at a specific point. It can also be used to find the direction of steepest ascent or descent for the function at that point.

## 4. How does the gradient of a function change along a level curve?

Along a level curve, the gradient of a function remains constant. This is because the function has the same value at every point on the curve, so the rate and direction of change are also constant. This means that the gradient vector will always be perpendicular to the curve at any given point.

## 5. What is the relationship between the gradient of a function and the tangent line to a level curve?

The gradient of a function is always perpendicular to the tangent line to a level curve at any given point. This is because the gradient represents the direction of greatest change, while the tangent line represents the direction of the curve at that point. Therefore, the gradient vector and the tangent line are always perpendicular to each other.

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