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Simple question on integrals and limits

  1. Jul 18, 2010 #1
    How would you formally express the result of:

    [tex]\lim_{\Delta \to 0}\int_{a}^{a+\Delta}f(x)\cdot dx[/tex]

    Is it correct to say that it is equal to [tex]f(a)\cdot dx[/tex] ?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 18, 2010 #2
    Why do you think it's equal to that?
    Try writing out a few elementary examples.
  4. Jul 18, 2010 #3
    [tex] \lim_{\Delta \to 0}\int_{a}^{a+\Delta}f(x)\cdot dx[/tex]

    [tex]= \lim_{\Delta \to 0}(F(a+\Delta) - F(a)) [/tex]

    [tex]= \lim_{\Delta \to 0}(F(a+\Delta) - F(a)) \cdot \frac{\Delta}{\Delta}[/tex]

    [tex]= \frac{dF}{dx}(a) \cdot dx[/tex]

    [tex]= f(a) \cdot dx[/tex]

    There must be a mistake...where is it?
  5. Jul 18, 2010 #4
    The Equality from line 3 to 4.
    Line 3 [tex]=F'(a) \cdot 0 = 0[/tex]

    [tex] \lim_{\Delta \to 0}\int_{a}^{a+\Delta}e^xdx=\lim_{\Delta \to 0}(e^{a+\Delta}-e^a)=e^a-e^a=0[/tex]
  6. Jul 18, 2010 #5
    Ok...so you are suggesting that changing a vanishing quantity [itex]\Delta[/itex] into dx is permitted only in ratios?
    In that case the answer to my original post would be zero (for continuous and integrable functions), isn´t it?
  7. Jul 18, 2010 #6
    The reason you got the dx from the [tex]\Delta[/tex] in the quotient isn't because the [tex]\Delta[/tex] turned into it, it's because you gave the definition of a derivative and the substituted the two. So yes the answer is 0.
  8. Jul 18, 2010 #7
    Ok thanks.

    So when I see in textbooks identities of the kind df=dx+dy+dz, they make sense only by accepting the fact that dx,dy,dz,df were originally linked by the definition of derivative (e.g.: f was a function f(x,y,z)) ?
  9. Jul 18, 2010 #8
    Normally it would be written like this
    [tex]\frac{df}{dt}=\frac{\partial f}{\partial x}\frac{dx}{dt}+\frac{\partial f}{\partial y}\frac{dy}{dt}+\frac{\partial f}{\partial z}\frac{dz}{dt}[/tex]

    I feel that just "df=dx+dy+dz" is quite ambiguous.
  10. Jul 18, 2010 #9
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  11. Jul 19, 2010 #10


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    Well, I would say not "ambiguous" but simply wrong for anything other than f(x,y,z)= x+ y+ z+ constant!

    [tex]\frac{df}{dt}=\frac{\partial f}{\partial x}\frac{dx}{dt}+\frac{\partial f}{\partial y}\frac{dy}{dt}+\frac{\partial f}{\partial z}\frac{dz}{dt}[/tex]
    we can get, in differential form,
    [tex]df=\left(\frac{\partial f}{\partial x}\right)dx+\left(\frac{\partial f}{\partial y}\right)dy+\left(\frac{\partial f}{\partial z}\right)dz[/tex]
  12. Jul 19, 2010 #11
    I too have to say that I hate and fear these kinds of equations and differentials in general wherever they crop up. It drives me particularly mad in physics textbooks which seem to use them so often. It's one of the few things in life that's brought me to tears and I'm normally a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. I'm sure it's a personal block and I should try and get over my fears, but I still mentally try and recast arguments in a way that doesn't use them.
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