Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Vector Calculus: Area and Mass of a Region

  1. Dec 1, 2012 #1
    Hi y'all.

    Here is exactly what is stated on the theory page of my book:

    Example: Area of a Region
    The area of a region R in the xy-plane corresponds to the case where f(x,y)=1.

    Area of R= ∫∫dR

    Example: Mass of a Region
    The mass of a region R in the xy-plane with mass density per unit area ρ(x,y) is given by:

    Mass of R= ∫∫ρdR

    I'm not at all understanding this first part of the theory, why is it that the area of the region R in the xy-plane is the case f(x,y)=1 and how did they obtain that express for the area R?

    All help is immensely appreciated as I'm tearing my hair out over this.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    What do you understand about integrals? Most people are first introduced to integrals in the for [itex]\int_a^b f(x)dx[/itex] where it is defined as "the area of the region bounded by the graphs of y= f(x), y= 0, x= a, and x= b".

    Once you start dealing with double integrals, since [itex]f(x)= \int_0^{f(x)} dy[/itex], it is easy to see that we can write that integral, and so that area, as [itex]\int_a^b\int_0^{f(x)} dy dx[/itex]. From that we can see that "dxdy" acts as a "differential of area". That is, we find the area of any region by integrating [itex]\int\int dx dy[/itex] over that region. Similarly, in three dimensions, we can find the volume of a region by integrating [itex]\int\int\int dxdydz[/itex] over that region.

    Another way of reaching the same idea is to divide the region into small rectangles with sides parallel to the x and y axes and identifying the lengths of the sides as "[itex]\Delta x[/itex]" and "[itex]\Delta y[/itex]". Of course, the area of each such rectangle is [itex]\Delta x\Delta y[/itex] and the area of the whole region can be approximated by [itex]\sum \Delta x\Delta y[/itex]. "Approximate" because some of the region, near the bounds, will not fit neatly into those rectangles. But we can make it exact by taking the limit as the size of [itex]\Delta x[/itex] and [itex]\Delta y[/itex] go to 0. Of course, I have no idea what method your texts or courses used to introduce the double integral so I cannot be more precise.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 1, 2012
  4. Dec 3, 2012 #3
    Thanks for that, the stupid part I wasn't understanding was that f(x,y) maps onto z.

    Makes perfect sense now.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook