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What is a contour?

  1. May 3, 2012 #1
    Simple question, this word keeps popping up in complex analysis but my book hasn't given an exact definition of what a contour is. Is it just a region in the complex plane bounded by a curve? So when the books says for instance "integrate over a contour" is that equivalent to just integrating over a closed surface in ℝ2?

    Another question which also troubles me quite a bit:

    Due to the cauchy riemann relations we have:

    [itex]\oint[/itex]Cf(z)dz = 0

    But still I often see things like: "Consider two closed contours A and B in the argand diagram, B being sufficiently small that it lies completely within C. Show that if f(z) is analytic in the region between the two contours then:
    [itex]\oint[/itex]Cf(z)dz = [itex]\oint[/itex]Bf(z)dz
    But shouldn't that be obvious since they are both equal to zero?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 3, 2012 #2

    LCKurtz

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    The contour integral is zero if f(z) is analytic inside the contour. But suppose f has a pole inside the contour. That is the situation being considered in your last example. Both contour integrals will give the same non-zero answer.
     
  4. May 3, 2012 #3

    Ray Vickson

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    Contours are curves, not regions. Typically, a "contour integral" refers to an integral over a closed curve.

    RGV
     
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