calculus


calculus
/kal"kyeuh leuhs/, n., pl. calculi /-luy'/, calculuses.
1. Math. a method of calculation, esp. one of several highly systematic methods of treating problems by a special system of algebraic notations, as differential or integral calculus.
2. Pathol. a stone, or concretion, formed in the gallbladder, kidneys, or other parts of the body.
3. Also called tartar. Dentistry. a hard, yellowish to brownish-black deposit on teeth formed largely through the mineralization of dead bacteria in dental plaques by the calcium salts in salivary secretions and subgingival transudates.
4. calculation: the calculus of political appeal.
[1610-20; < L: pebble, small stone (used in reckoning), equiv. to calc- (s. of calx stone) + -ulus -ULE]

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I
Field of mathematics that analyzes aspects of change in processes or systems that can be modeled by functions.

Through its two primary tools
the derivative and the integral
it allows precise calculation of rates of change and of the total amount of change in such a system. The derivative and the integral grew out of the idea of a limit, the logical extension of the concept of a function over smaller and smaller intervals. The relationship between differential calculus and integral calculus, known as the fundamental theorem of calculus, was discovered in the late 17th century independently by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Calculus was one of the major scientific breakthroughs of the modern era.
II
(as used in expressions)

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Introduction

      branch of mathematics concerned with the calculation of instantaneous rates of change (differential calculus (analysis)) and the summation of infinitely many small factors to determine some whole (integral calculus (analysis)). Two mathematicians, Isaac Newton (Newton, Sir Isaac) of England and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm) of Germany, share credit for having independently developed the calculus in the 17th century. Calculus is now the basic entry point for anyone wishing to study physics, chemistry, biology, economics, finance, or actuarial science. Calculus makes it possible to solve problems as diverse as tracking the position of a space shuttle or predicting the pressure building up behind a dam as the water rises. Computers have become a valuable tool for solving calculus problems that were once considered impossibly difficult.

Calculating curves and areas under curves
      The roots of calculus lie in some of the oldest geometry problems on record. The Egyptian Rhind papyrus (c. 1650 BC) gives rules for finding the area of a circle and the volume of a truncated pyramid. Ancient Greek geometers investigated finding tangents to curves, the centre of gravity of plane and solid figures, and the volumes of objects formed by revolving various curves about a fixed axis.

      By 1635 the Italian mathematician Bonaventura Cavalieri (Cavalieri, Bonaventura) had supplemented the rigorous tools of Greek geometry with heuristic methods that used the idea of infinitely small segments of lines, areas, and volumes. In 1637 the French mathematician-philosopher René Descartes (Descartes, René) published his invention of analytic geometry for giving algebraic descriptions of geometric figures. Descartes's method, in combination with an ancient idea of curves being generated by a moving point, allowed mathematicians such as Newton to describe motion algebraically. Suddenly geometers could go beyond the single cases and ad hoc methods of previous times. They could see patterns of results, and so conjecture new results, that the older geometric language had obscured.

      For example, the Greek geometer Archimedes (c. 285–212/211 BC) discovered as an isolated result that the area of a segment of a parabola is equal to a certain triangle. But with algebraic notation, in which a parabola is written as y = x2, Cavalieri and other geometers soon noted that the area between this curve and the x-axis from 0 to a is a3/3 and that a similar rule holds for the curve y = x3—namely, that the corresponding area is a4/4. From here it was not difficult for them to guess that the general formula for the area under a curve y = xn is an + 1/(n + 1).

Calculating velocities and slopes
      The problem of finding tangents to curves was closely related to an important problem that arose from the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei's investigations of motion, that of finding the velocity at any instant of a particle moving according to some law. Galileo established that in t seconds a freely falling body falls a distance gt2/2, where g is a constant (later interpreted by Newton as the gravitational (gravitation) constant). With the definition of average velocity as the distance per time, the body's average velocity over an interval from t to t + h is given by the expression [g(t + h)2/2 − gt2/2]/h. This simplifies to gt + gh/2 and is called the difference quotient of the function gt2/2. As h approaches 0, this formula approaches gt, which is interpreted as the instantaneous velocity of a falling body at time t.

 This expression for motion is identical to that obtained for the slope of the tangent to the parabola f(t) = y = gt2/2 at the point t. In this geometric context, the expression gt + gh/2 (or its equivalent [f(t + h) − f(t)]/h) denotes the slope of a secant line connecting the point (tf(t)) to the nearby point (t + hf(t + h)) (see figure—>). In the limit, with smaller and smaller intervals h, the secant line approaches the tangent line and its slope at the point t.

      Thus, the difference quotient can be interpreted as instantaneous velocity or as the slope of a tangent to a curve. It was the calculus that established this deep connection between geometry and physics—in the process transforming physics and giving a new impetus to the study of geometry.

Differentiation and integration
      Independently, Newton and Leibniz established simple rules for finding the formula for the slope of the tangent to a curve at any point on it, given only a formula for the curve. The rate of change of a function f (denoted by f′) is known as its derivative. Finding the formula of the derivative function is called differentiation, and the rules for doing so form the basis of differential calculus. Depending on the context, derivatives may be interpreted as slopes of tangent lines, velocities of moving particles, or other quantities, and therein lies the great power of the differential calculus.

      An important application of differential calculus is graphing a curve given its equation y = f(x). This involves, in particular, finding local maximum and minimum points on the graph, as well as changes in inflection (convex to concave, or vice versa). When examining a function used in a mathematical model, such geometric notions have physical interpretations that allow a scientist or engineer to quickly gain a feeling for the behaviour of a physical system.

      The other great discovery of Newton and Leibniz was that finding the derivatives of functions was, in a precise sense, the inverse of the problem of finding areas under curves—a principle now known as the fundamental theorem of calculus (analysis). Specifically, Newton discovered that if there exists a function F(t) that denotes the area under the curve y = f(x) from, say, 0 to t, then this function's derivative will equal the original curve over that interval, F′(t) = f(t). Hence, to find the area under the curve y = x2 from 0 to t, it is enough to find a function F so that F′(t) = t2. The differential calculus shows that the most general such function is x3/3 + C, where C is an arbitrary constant. This is called the (indefinite) integral of the function y = x2, and it is written as ∫x2dx. The initial symbol ∫ is an elongated S, which stands for sum, and dx indicates an infinitely small increment of the variable, or axis, over which the function is being summed. Leibniz introduced this because he thought of integration as finding the area under a curve by a summation of the areas of infinitely many infinitesimally (infinitesimal) thin rectangles between the x-axis and the curve. Newton and Leibniz discovered that integrating f(x) is equivalent to solving a differential equation—i.e., finding a function F(t) so that F′(t) = f(t). In physical terms, solving this equation can be interpreted as finding the distance F(t) traveled by an object whose velocity has a given expression f(t).

      The branch of the calculus concerned with calculating integrals is the integral calculus, and among its many applications are finding work done by physical systems and calculating pressure behind a dam at a given depth.

John L. Berggren

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Calculus — Cal cu*lus, n.; pl. {Calculi}. [L, calculus. See {Calculate}, and {Calcule}.] 1. (Med.) Any solid concretion, formed in any part of the body, but most frequent in the organs that act as reservoirs, and in the passages connected with them; as,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • calculus — 1660s, from L. calculus reckoning, account, originally pebble used as a reckoning counter, dim. of calx (gen. calcis) limestone (see CHALK (Cf. chalk)). Modern mathematical sense is a shortening of differential calculus. Also used from 1732 to… …   Etymology dictionary

  • calculus — [kal′kyo͞o ləs, kal′kyələs] n. pl. calculi [kal′kyəlī΄] or calculuses [L: see CALCULATE] 1. any abnormal stony mass or deposit formed in the body, as in a kidney or gallbladder or on teeth: see TARTAR (sense 2) 2. Math. a) any system of… …   English World dictionary

  • Calcŭlus — (lat.), 1) Stein; 2) Stein im Bretspiel; 3) das kleinste Gewicht, ungefähr = 1/2 Ceratium; 4) Berechnung, s. Calcul; 5) die Stimme im Votiren; daher C. Minervae (eigentlich Ἀϑηνᾶς ψῆφος) der weiße Stein bei Stimmengleichheit im Areopag zu Athen,… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Calcŭlus — (lat.), Stein, z. B. zum Spiel, zu Abstimmungen (s. Kalkul), zum Rechnen etc.; daher Error in calculo, Rechnungsfehler. C Minervae, Stein der Minerva, d. h. die bei Stimmengleichheit zu jemandes gunsten den Ausschlag gebende Stimme, von dem… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Calculus — Calcŭlus (lat.), Stein, Rechenstein, Rechnung; error in calculo, Rechenfehler …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Calculus — Calculus, Stein, in der patholog. Anatomie Name verschiedener Concretionen, als Harn , Gallen , Gicht und Venenstein …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • calculus — ► NOUN (pl. calculi or calculuses) 1) the branch of mathematics concerned with finding derivatives and integrals of functions by methods based on the summation of infinitesimal differences. 2) Medicine a stone formed by deposition of minerals in… …   English terms dictionary

  • Calculus — This article is about the branch of mathematics. For other uses, see Calculus (disambiguation). Topics in Calculus Fundamental theorem Limits of functions Continuity Mean value theorem Differential calculus  Derivative Change of variables …   Wikipedia

  • Calculus — A stone, as in the urinary tract. Also, the calcium salt deposits on the teeth. The word calculus in Latin means a pebble. Pebbles were once used for counting, from which came the mathematical field of calculus. A urinary calculus is a pebble in… …   Medical dictionary


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