2117: Differentiation and Integration
|Differentiation and Integration|
Title text: "Symbolic integration" is when you theatrically go through the motions of finding integrals, but the actual result you get doesn't matter because it's purely symbolic.
This comic illustrates the old saying "Differentiation is mechanics, integration is art." It does so by providing a flowchart purporting to show the process of differentiation, and another for integration.
However, Randall dramatically overstates this point here. After the first step of integration, Randall assumes that any integration can not be solved so simply, and then dives into a step named "????", suggesting that it is unknowable how to proceed. The rest of the flowchart is (we can assume deliberately) even harder to follow, and does not reach a conclusion. This is in contrast to the simple, straightforward flowchart for differentiation. The fact that the arrows in the bottom of the integration part leads to nowhere indicates that "Phone calls to mathematicians", "Oh no" and "Burn the evidence" are not final steps in the difficult journey. The flowchart could be extended by Randall to God-knows-where extents.
It should be noted that Randall slightly undermines his point by providing four different methods, and an "etc", and a "No"-branch for attempting differentiation with no guidelines for selecting between them.
For any and , it follows that .
For any and , it follows that .
For any and , it follows that if .
For any and , it follows that .
The "product rule" run backwards. Since , it follows that by integrating both sides you get , which is more commonly written as . By finding appropriate values for functions such that your problem is in the form , your problem may be simplified. The catch is, there exists no algorithm for determining what functions they might possibly be, so this approach quickly devolves into a guessing game - this has been the topic of an earlier comic, 1201: Integration by Parts.
The "chain rule" run backwards. Since , it follows that . By finding appropriate values for functions such that your problem is in the form your problem may be simplified.
Cauchy's Integral formula is a result in complex analysis that relates the value of a contour integral in the complex plane to properties of the singularities in the interior of the contour. It is often used to compute integrals on the real line by extending the path of the integral from the real line into the complex plane to apply the formula, then proving that the integral from the parts of the contour not on the real line has value zero.
Partial fractions is a technique for breaking up a function that comprises one polynomial divided by another into a sum of functions comprising constants over the factors of the original denominator, which can easily be integrated into logarithms.
Mathematica is a modern technical computing system spanning most areas. One of its features is to compute mathematical functions. This step in the flowchart is to install and use Mathematica to do the integration for you. Here is a description about the intricacies of integration and how Mathematica handles those. (It would be quicker to try Wolfram Alpha instead of installing Mathematica, which uses the same backend for mathematical calculations.)
The Riemann integral is a definition of definite integration. Elementary textbooks on calculus sometimes present finding a definite integral as a process of approximating an area by strips of equal width and then taking the limit as the strips become narrower. Riemann integration removes the requirement that the strips have equal width, and so is a more flexible definition. However there are still many functions for which the Riemann integral doesn't converge, and consideration of these functions leads to the Lebesgue integral. Riemann integration is not a method of calculus appropriate for finding the anti-derivative of an elementary function.
Stokes' theorem is a statement about the integration of differential forms on manifolds. It is invoked in science and engineering during control volume analysis (that is, to track the rate of change of a quantity within a control volume, it suffices to track the fluxes in and out of the control volume boundary), but is rarely used directly (and even when it is used directly, the functions that are most frequently used in science and engineering are well-behaved, like sinusoids and polynomials).
The Risch algorithm is a notoriously complex procedure that, given a certain class of symbolic integrand, either finds a symbolic integral or proves that no elementary integral exists. (Technically it is only a semi-algorithm, and cannot produce an answer unless it can determine if a certain symbolic expression is equal to 0 or not.) Many computer algebra systems have chosen to implement only the simpler Risch-Norman algorithm, which does not come with the same guarantee. A series of extensions to the Risch algorithm extend the class of allowable functions to include (at least) the error function and the logarithmic integral. A human would have to be pretty desperate to attempt this (presumably) by hand.
Bessel functions are the solution to the differential equation , where n is the order of Bessel function. Though they do show up in some engineering, physics, and abstract mathematics, in lower levels of calculus they are often a sign that the integration was not set up properly before someone put them into a symbolic algebra solver.
Phone calls to mathematicians
This step would indicate that the flowchart user, desperate from failed attempts to solve the problem, contacts some more skilled mathematicians by phone, and presumably asks them for help. The connected steps of "Oh no", "What the heck is a Bessel function?" and "Burn the evidence" may suggest the possibility that this interaction might not play out very well and could even get the caller in trouble. Specialists and renowned experts being bothered - not to their amusement - by strangers, often at highly inconvenient times or locations, is a common comedic trope, also previously utilized by xkcd (for example in 163: Donald Knuth).
Burn the evidence
This phrase parodies a common trope in detective fiction, where characters burn notes, receipts, passports, etc. to maintain secrecy. This may refer to the burning of one's work to avoid the shame of being associated with such a badly failed attempt to solve the given integration problem. Alternatively, it could be an ironic hint to the fact that in order to find the integral, it may even be necessary to break the law or upset higher powers, so that the negative consequences of a persecution can only be avoided by destroying the evidence.
Symbolic integration is the basic process of finding an antiderivative function (defined with symbols), as opposed to numerically integrating a function. The title text is a pun that defines the term not as integration that works with symbols, but rather as integration as a symbolic act, as if it were a component of a ritual. A symbolic act in a ritual is an act meant to evoke something else, such as burning a wooden figurine of a person to represent one’s hatred of that person. Alternatively, the reference could be seen as a joke that integration might as well be a symbol, like in a novel, because Randall can't get any meaningful results from his analysis.
- [Two flow charts are shown.]
- [The first flow chart has four steps in simple order, one with multiple recommendations.]
- Try applying
- Chain Rule
- Power Rule
- Quotient Rule
- Product Rule
- No [Arrow returns to "Try applying" step.]
[The second flow chart begins like the first, then descends into chaos.]
- Try applying
- Integration by Parts
- Haha, Nope!
- [Chaos, Roughly from left to right, top to bottom, direction arrows not included.]
- Cauchy's Formula
- Partial Fractions
- Install Mathematica
- Riemann Integration
- Stokes' Theorem
- Risch Algorithm
- [Sad face.]
- What the heck is a Bessel Function??
- Phone calls to mathematicians
- Oh No
- Burn the Evidence
- [More arrows pointing out of the image to suggest more steps.]
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