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Category# Vector analysis

Summary

Vector calculus, or vector analysis, is concerned with differentiation and integration of vector fields, primarily in 3-dimensional Euclidean space The term "vector calculus" is sometimes used as a synonym for the broader subject of multivariable calculus, which spans vector calculus as well as partial differentiation and multiple integration. Vector calculus plays an important role in differential geometry and in the study of partial differential equations. It is used extensively in physics and engineering, especially in the description of
electromagnetic fields, gravitational fields, and fluid flow.
Vector calculus was developed from quaternion analysis by J. Willard Gibbs and Oliver Heaviside near the end of the 19th century, and most of the notation and terminology was established by Gibbs and Edwin Bidwell Wilson in their 1901 book, Vector Analysis. In the conventional form using cross products, vector calculus does not generalize to higher dimensions, while the alternative approach of geometric algebra which uses exterior products does (see below for more).
Scalar field
A scalar field associates a scalar value to every point in a space. The scalar is a mathematical number representing a physical quantity. Examples of scalar fields in applications include the temperature distribution throughout space, the pressure distribution in a fluid, and spin-zero quantum fields (known as scalar bosons), such as the Higgs field. These fields are the subject of scalar field theory.
Vector field
A vector field is an assignment of a vector to each point in a space. A vector field in the plane, for instance, can be visualized as a collection of arrows with a given magnitude and direction each attached to a point in the plane. Vector fields are often used to model, for example, the speed and direction of a moving fluid throughout space, or the strength and direction of some force, such as the magnetic or gravitational force, as it changes from point to point. This can be used, for example, to calculate work done over a line.

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Notation for differentiation

In differential calculus, there is no single uniform notation for differentiation. Instead, various notations for the derivative of a function or variable have been proposed by various mathematicians. The usefulness of each notation varies with the context, and it is sometimes advantageous to use more than one notation in a given context. The most common notations for differentiation (and its opposite operation, the antidifferentiation or indefinite integration) are listed below.

Total derivative

In mathematics, the total derivative of a function f at a point is the best linear approximation near this point of the function with respect to its arguments. Unlike partial derivatives, the total derivative approximates the function with respect to all of its arguments, not just a single one. In many situations, this is the same as considering all partial derivatives simultaneously. The term "total derivative" is primarily used when f is a function of several variables, because when f is a function of a single variable, the total derivative is the same as the ordinary derivative of the function.

Gradient

In vector calculus, the gradient of a scalar-valued differentiable function of several variables is the vector field (or vector-valued function) whose value at a point is the "direction and rate of fastest increase". If the gradient of a function is non-zero at a point , the direction of the gradient is the direction in which the function increases most quickly from , and the magnitude of the gradient is the rate of increase in that direction, the greatest absolute directional derivative.

Differential geometry

Differential geometry is a mathematical discipline that studies the geometry of smooth shapes and smooth spaces, otherwise known as smooth manifolds. It uses the techniques of differential calculus, integral calculus, linear algebra and multilinear algebra. The field has its origins in the study of spherical geometry as far back as antiquity. It also relates to astronomy, the geodesy of the Earth, and later the study of hyperbolic geometry by Lobachevsky.

Calculus

Calculus is the mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape, and algebra is the study of generalizations of arithmetic operations. It has two major branches, differential calculus and integral calculus; the former concerns instantaneous rates of change, and the slopes of curves, while the latter concerns accumulation of quantities, and areas under or between curves.

Euclidean geometry

Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry, Elements. Euclid's approach consists in assuming a small set of intuitively appealing axioms (postulates) and deducing many other propositions (theorems) from these. Although many of Euclid's results had been stated earlier, Euclid was the first to organize these propositions into a logical system in which each result is proved from axioms and previously proved theorems.

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