This activity starts with a brief lecture introduction to power series and a short derivation of the formula for calculating the power series coefficients.
\[c_n={1\over n!}\, f^{(n)}(z_0)\]
Students use this formula to compute the power series coefficients for a \(\sin\theta\) (around both the origin and (if time allows) \(\frac{\pi}{6}\)). The meaning of these coefficients and the convergence behavior for each approximation is discussed in the whole-class wrap-up and in the follow-up activity: Visualization of Power Series Approximations.
1. Power Series Sequence (E&M) | Visualization of Power Series Approximations >>
Power Series CoefficientsConsider the power series:
\[f(z) = \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} c_n (z-z_0)^n\]
expanded around the point \(z_0\). The coefficients are found from the formula:
\[c_n = \frac{f^{(n)}(z_0)}{n!}\]
- Find the first four non-zero coefficients for \(\sin\theta\) expanded around the origin.
Write out the series approximation, correct to 4th order, for \(\sin\theta\) expanded around the origin.
\(\sin\theta = \)
- Find the first four non-zero coefficients for \(\sin\theta\) expanded around \(\theta_0 = \pi/6\)
Write out the series approximation, correct to 4th order, for \(\sin\theta\) expanded around \(\theta_0 = \pi/6.\)
\(\sin\theta = \)
- What does it mean to write a series expansion around the point \(a\)?
- Briefly describe in words how to expand the series approximation for a function, correct to 4th order.
In a whole class wrap-up, make sure to address all of the points in Student Conversations, above, especially the vocabulary. This activity is designed to be followed by the activity: Visualization of Power Series Approximations which let's students explore the graphs of the different orders of power series approximations that they have calculated in this activity.
computer Computer Simulation
30 min.
Taylor series power series approximation
Students use prepared Sage code or a prepared Mathematica notebook to plot \(\sin\theta\) simultaneously with several terms of a power series expansion to judge how well the approximation fits. Students can alter the worksheet to change the number of terms in the expansion and even to change the function that is being considered. Students should have already calculated the coefficients for the power series expansion in a previous activity, Calculating Coefficients for a Power Series.assignment Homework
Recall that, if you take an infinite number of terms, the power series for \(\sin z\) and the function itself \(f(z)=\sin z\) are equivalent representations of the same thing for all real numbers \(z\), (in fact, for all complex numbers \(z\)). This is what it means for the power series to “converge” for all \(z\). Not all power series converge for all values of the argument of the function. More commonly, a power series is only a valid, equivalent representation of a function for some more restricted values of \(z\), EVEN IF YOUR KEEP AN INFINITE NUMBER OF TERMS. The technical name for this idea is convergence--the series only "converges" to the value of the function on some restricted domain, called the “interval” or “region of convergence.”
Find the power series for the function \(f(z)=\frac{1}{1+z^2}\). Then, using the Geogebra applet from class as a model, or some other computer algebra system like Mathematica or Maple, explore the convergence of this series. Where does your series for this new function converge? Can you tell anything about the region of convergence from the graphs of the various approximations? Print out a plot and write a brief description (a sentence or two) of the region of convergence. You may need to include a lot of terms to see the effect of the region of convergence. You may also need to play with the values of \(z\) that you plot. Keep adding terms until you see a really strong effect!
Note: As a matter of professional ettiquette (or in some cases, as a legal copyright requirement), if you use or modify a computer program written by someone else, you should always acknowledge that fact briefly in whatever you write up. Say something like: “This calculation was based on a (name of software package) program titled (title) originally written by (author) copyright (copyright date).”
assignment Homework
assignment Homework
group Small Group Activity
60 min.
electrostatic potential multipole charge symmetry scalar field superposition coulomb's Law
Students work in small groups to use the superposition principle \[V(\vec{r}) = \frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\sum_i \frac{q_i}{\vert\vec{r}-\vec{r}_i\vert}\] to find the electrostatic potential \(V\) everywhere in space due to a pair of charges (either identical charges or a dipole). Different groups are assigned different arrangements of charges and different regions of space to consider: either on the axis of the charges or in the plane equidistant from the two charges, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Each group is asked to find a power series expansion for the electrostatic potential, valid in their group's assigned region of space. The whole class wrap-up discussion then compares and contrasts the results and discuss the symmetries of the two cases.assignment Homework
Set up the integrals for the Fourier series for this state.
Which terms will have the largest coefficients? Explain briefly.
Are there any coefficients that you know will be zero? Explain briefly.
Using the technology of your choice or by hand, calculate the four largest coefficients. With screen shots or otherwise, show your work.
assignment Homework
Look up and memorize the power series to fourth order for \(e^z\), \(\sin z\), \(\cos z\), \((1+z)^p\) and \(\ln(1+z)\). For what values of \(z\) do these series converge?
format_list_numbered Sequence
The first three activities provide an active-engagement version of the canonical mathematical and geometric fundamentals for power series. The subsequent activities apply these ideas to physical situations that are appropriate for an upper-division electromagnetism course, using concepts, terminology, and techniques that are common among physicists, but not often taught in mathematics courses. In particular students use the memorized formula for the binomial expansion to evaluate various electrostatic and magnetostatic field in regions of high symmetry. By factoring out a physical quantity which is large compared to another physical quantity, they manipulate the formulas for these fields into a form where memorized formulas apply. The results for the different regions of high symmetry are compared and contrasted. A few homework problems that emphasize the meaning of series notation are included.
Note: The first two activities are also included in Power Series Sequence (Mechanics) and can be skipped in E&M if already taught in Mechanics.
keyboard Computational Activity
120 min.
group Small Group Activity
30 min.
electrostatic potential charge linear charge density taylor series power series scalar field superposition symmetry distance formula
Students work in small groups to use the superposition principle \[V(\vec{r}) =\frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\int\frac{\rho(\vec{r}^{\,\prime})}{\vert \vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\vert} \, d\tau^{\prime}\] to find an integral expression for the electrostatic potential, \(V(\vec{r})\), everywhere in space, due to a ring of charge.
In an optional extension, students find a series expansion for \(V(\vec{r})\) either on the axis or in the plane of the ring, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Add an extra half hour or more to the time estimate for the optional extension.