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Curl and Divergence

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In this section we are going to introduce a couple of new concepts, the curl and the

divergence of a vector.

Lets start with the curl. Given the vector field

the curl is defined to be,

There is another (potentially) easier definition of the curl of a vector field. To use it

we will first need to define the

operator. This is defined to be,

is substituted into the partial

derivatives. Note as well that when we look at it in this light we simply get the

gradient vector.

Using the

We have a couple of nice facts that use the curl of a vector field.

Facts

1. If

then

. This is easy enough to check by plugging

into the definition of the derivative so well leave it to you to check.

2. If

is a conservative vector field then

. This is a

direct result of what it means to be a conservative vector field and the previous fact.

3. If

is defined on all of

derivative and

then

This is not so easy to verify and so we wont try.

Example 1 Determine if

is a conservative vector field.

Solution

So all that we need to do is compute the curl and see if we get the zero vector or not.

So, the curl isnt the zero vector and so this vector field is not conservative.

Next we should talk about a physical interpretation of the curl. Suppose that

is

the velocity field of a flowing fluid. Then

represents the tendency

of particles at the point

the direction of

called irrotational.

. If

Lets now talk about the second new concept in this section. Given the vector

field

defined to be,

the divergence is

operator. The

divergence can be defined in terms of the following dot product.

Example 2 Compute

for

Solution

There really isnt much to do here other than compute the divergence.

We also have the following fact about the relationship between the curl and the

divergence.

.

Solution

Lets first compute the curl.

as the velocity field of a flowing fluid then

represents the net rate of

change of the mass of the fluid flowing from the point

per

unit volume. This can also be thought of as the tendency of a fluid to diverge from a

point. If

then the

is called incompressible.

The next topic that we want to briefly mention is the Laplace operator. Lets first

take a look at,

The Laplace operator arises naturally in many fields including heat transfer and fluid

flow.

The final topic in this section is to give two vector forms of Greens Theorem. The

first form uses the curl of the vector field and is,

where

The second form uses the divergence. In this case we also need the outward unit

normal to the curve C. If the curve is parameterized by

Here is a sketch illustrating the outward unit normal for some curve C at various

points.

The vector form of Greens Theorem that uses the divergence is given by,

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