1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Simple exponential problem

  1. May 26, 2008 #1

    The number of bacteria present in a culture at time t hours is modelled by the
    continuous variable N and the relationship

    N = 2000e^(kt)

    where k is a constant.

    Given that when t = 3, N = 18 000, find

    (a) the value of k to 3 significant figures

    (b) how long it takes for the number of bacteria present to double, giving your
    answer to the nearest minute

    k is found to be 0.73241 to 5s.f

    For the next part, i simply let N=18000*2=36000, and solved to find t=3.94 therefore it takes 3.94-3 = 0.94 hours for the number to double. This obviously yields the correct answer, however the markscheme let N=4000 subsequently solved to give 0.94 immediately (without having to subtract 3). Can someone please explain the logic behind the markschemes method?

  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    The "time to double" for any exponential function (or "half life" if k is negative) is a constant so it doesn't matter what t you start with. You chose to start with t= 3 while the "markscheme" started with t= 0. When t= 0, N= 2000 and when the number has doubled, N= 2*2000= 4000. Since N= 2000 when t= 0, the "time to double" is just t so that N(t)= 4000. 4000= 2000e^(kt) so e^(kt)= 2.

    You could as easily have said: "Taking T= time to double, N(3)= 18000= 2000e^{3k} and N(T+3)= 36000= 2000e^{k(T+3)}. Dividing the second equation by the first, 2= e^{k(T+3)}/e^{3k}= e^{kT+ 3k- 3k}= e^{kT}, again getting e^{kT)= 2.
  4. May 26, 2008 #3
    Thank you!
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Simple exponential problem