# Laplacian of a Vector

## Homework Statement

Show that $\nabla^{2}\left(\frac{1}{\overrightarrow{r}}\right)=0$

## The Attempt at a Solution

Let $\nabla=\hat{i}\frac{\partial}{\partial x}+\hat{j}\frac{\partial}{\partial y}+\hat{k}\frac{\partial}{\partial z}$

and $\overrightarrow{r}=x\hat{i}+y\hat{j}+z\hat{k}, \mid r\mid=\sqrt{x^{2}+y^{2}+z^{2}}$,

$\hat{r}=\hat{i}+\hat{j}+\hat{k}$

First calculate $\nabla\left(\frac{1}{\overrightarrow{r}}\right)=\nabla\left(\frac{1}{\mid r\mid\hat{r}}\right)=\nabla\left(\frac{1}{\mid r\mid}\hat{r}\right)=\left[\hat{i}\frac{\partial}{\partial x}+\hat{j}\frac{\partial}{\partial y}+\hat{k}\frac{\partial}{\partial z}\right]\left[\frac{\hat{i}+\hat{j}+\hat{k}}{\sqrt{x^{2}+y^{2}+z^{2}}}\right]$

$= \hat{i}\frac{\partial}{\partial x}\left(x^{2}+y^{2}+z^{2}\right)^{\frac{-1}{2}}+\hat{j}\frac{\partial}{\partial y}\left(x^{2}+y^{2}+z^{2}\right)^{\frac{-1}{2}}+\hat{k}\frac{\partial}{\partial z}\left(x^{2}+y^{2}+z^{2}\right)^{\frac{-1}{2}}$

Am I doing it the right way?

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TSny
Homework Helper
Gold Member
$\frac{1}{\vec{r}}$ doesn't make sense because it involves dividing by a vector.

Are you sure you aren't supposed to take the Laplacian of $\frac{1}{|\vec{r}|}$ instead?

$\frac{1}{\vec{r}}$ doesn't make sense because it involves dividing by a vector.

Are you sure you aren't supposed to take the Laplacian of $\frac{1}{|\vec{r}|}$ instead?

It looks like a vector

The problem is from Mathematical Methods for Physicists by Tai L. Chow.

TSny
Homework Helper
Gold Member
You're right, it does look like $1/\vec{r}$. I think it must be a misprint. It does turn out that $\nabla^2(1/r)=0$ (except at $r = 0$).

So, I'm thinking that's what was meant.

Part (c) also seems to have some misprints, unless the author is purposely trying to test whether you can tell if an expression is meaningless.

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