Differential equation

Mainly the study of differential equations consists of the study of their solutions (the set of functions that satisfy each equation), and of the properties of their solutions. Only the simplest differential equations are solvable by explicit formulas; however, many properties of solutions of a given differential equation may be determined without computing them exactly.

He solves these examples and others using infinite series and discusses the non-uniqueness of solutions.

In some cases, this differential equation (called an equation of motion) may be solved explicitly.

An example of modeling a real-world problem using differential equations is the determination of the velocity of a ball falling through the air, considering only gravity and air resistance. The ball's acceleration towards the ground is the acceleration due to gravity minus the deceleration due to air resistance. Gravity is considered constant, and air resistance may be modeled as proportional to the ball's velocity. This means that the ball's acceleration, which is a derivative of its velocity, depends on the velocity (and the velocity depends on time). Finding the velocity as a function of time involves solving a differential equation and verifying its validity.

Differential equations can be divided into several types. Apart from describing the properties of the equation itself, these classes of differential equations can help inform the choice of approach to a solution. Commonly used distinctions include whether the equation is ordinary or partial, linear or non-linear, and homogeneous or heterogeneous. This list is far from exhaustive; there are many other properties and subclasses of differential equations which can be very useful in specific contexts.

Linear differential equations frequently appear as approximations to nonlinear equations. These approximations are only valid under restricted conditions. For example, the harmonic oscillator equation is an approximation to the nonlinear pendulum equation that is valid for small amplitude oscillations (see below).

Solving differential equations is not like solving algebraic equations. Not only are their solutions often unclear, but whether solutions are unique or exist at all are also notable subjects of interest.

However, this only helps us with first order initial value problems. Suppose we had a linear initial value problem of the nth order:

The theory of differential equations is closely related to the theory of difference equations, in which the coordinates assume only discrete values, and the relationship involves values of the unknown function or functions and values at nearby coordinates. Many methods to compute numerical solutions of differential equations or study the properties of differential equations involve the approximation of the solution of a differential equation by the solution of a corresponding difference equation.

The number of differential equations that have received a name, in various scientific areas is a witness of the importance of the topic. See List of named differential equations.