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# Gauss theorem 1

## Chapter 14 Gauss theorem

We now present the third great theorem of integral vector calculus. It is interesting that
Greens theorem is again the basic starting point. In Chapter 13 we saw how Greens theorem
directly translates to the case of surfaces in R
3
and produces Stokes theorem. Now we are
going to see how a reinterpretation of Greens theorem leads to Gauss theorem for R
2
, and
then we shall learn from that how to use the proof of Greens theorem to extend it to R
n
; the
result is called Gauss theorem for R
n
.
A. Greens theorem reinterpreted
We begin with the situation obtained in Section 12C for a region R in R
2
. With the
positive orientation for bdR, we have
__
R
f
x
dxdy =
_
bdR
fdy,
__
R
g
y
dxdy =
_
bdR
gdx.
We now consider a vector eld F = (F
1
, F
2
) on R, and we obtain from Greens theorem
__
R
_
F
1
x
+
F
2
y
_
dxdy =
_
bdR
F
1
dy F
2
dx.
(Notice if we were thinking in terms of Stokes theorem, we would put the minus sign on the
left side instead of the right.)
We now work on the line integral, rst writing it symbolically in the form
_
bdR
F (dy, dx).
We now express what this actually means. Of course, bdR may come in several disjoint pieces,
so we focus on just one such piece, say the closed curve = (t) = (
1
(t),
2
(t)), a t b.
Then the part of the line integral
corresponding to this piece is actually
_
b
a
F((t)) (

2
(t),

1
(t))dt.
R
2 Chapter 14
This in turn equals
_
b
a
F((t))
(

2
(t),

1
(t))

(t)

(t)dt.
The unit vector in the dot product has a beautiful geometric interpretation. Namely, it is
orthogonal to the unit tangent vector
(

1
(t),

2
(t))

(t)
,
and it is oriented 90

clockwise from the tangent vector. (You can use the matrix J of
Section 8D to see this, as
J
_

2
_
=
_

1
_
.
You can also think in complex arithmetic: i(

1
+ i

2
) =

2
i

1
, and multiplication by i
rotates 90

clockwise.)
Because the tangent direction

## counterclockwise from it,

we conclude that the normal vector
(

2
(t),

1
(t))

(t)
points away from R:
N
Let us name this unit normal vector

N. Thus at each point (x, y) bdR, the vector

N(x, y)
at that point is determined by these requirements:

N has unit norm,

N is orthogonal to bdR,

N points outward from R.
Greens theorem has now been rewritten in the form
__
R
_
F
1
x
+
F
2
y
_
dxdy =
_
bdR
F

Ndvol
1
.
Gauss theorem 3
This result is precisely what is called Gauss theorem in R
2
. The integrand in the integral
over R is a special function associated with a vector eld in R
2
, and goes by the name the
divergence of F:
divF =
F
1
x
+
F
2
y
.
Again we can use the symbolic del vector
=
_

x
,

y
_
to write
divF = F.
Thus Gauss theorem asserts that
__
R
Fdvol
2
=
_
R
F

Ndvol
1
.
Notice that this nal result has the interesting feature that the orientation of the coordinate
system has completely disappeared.
B. Gauss theorem for R
n
It is very easy now to imagine what the correct extension to R
n
should be. This is very
dierent from our encounter with Stokes theorem, for which the nal result seems to be very
much tied to R
3
.
Suppose D R
n
is an open set with a reasonable boundary bdD. We dont want to
explain this further, except to say that at each point of bdD there is a normal vector

N such
that

N has unit norm,

N is orthogonal to bdD,

N points outward from D.
We are willing to allow corners and edges to some extent, but nothing too wild is to be
permitted.
Suppose F is a vector eld of class C
1
dened at least on clD, the closure of D. We dene
the divergence of F by the formula
divF = F =
F
1
x
1
+ +
F
n
x
n
.
4 Chapter 14
This is again the formal dot product
F =
_

x
1
, . . . ,

x
n
_
(F
1
, . . . , F
n
).
GAUSS THEOREM. Under the above hypotheses,
_
D
Fdvol
n
=
_
bdD
F

Ndvol
n1
.
We shall spend the remainder of this section discussing examples of the use of this theorem,
and shall give the proof in the next section.
First, apply the theorem to the very particular vector eld F(x) = x, so that F = n.
Then we obtain immediately
nvol
n
(D) =
_
bdD
x

Ndvol
n1
.
In particular, if D is the ball B(0, r) of radius r, we know vol
n
(D) =
n
r
n
. And bdD = the
sphere S(0, r), for which

N = x/r. Thus x

N = x
2
/r = r, so we obtain immediately from
Gauss theorem the equation
vol
n1
(S(0, a)) = n
n
r
n1
.
This formula was found with more eort in Section 11C.
For another example we examine an ellipsoid. Let A be a symmetric positive denite nn
matrix, and D the solid ellipsoid
D = {x R
n
| Ax x < 1}.
We know from Problem 1042 that
vol
n
(D) =

n

det A
.
Ax x = 2Ax,
so that in Gauss theorem
x

N =
Ax x
Ax
=
1
Ax
.
Gauss theorem 5
Thus we obtain
_
bdD
dvol
n1
Ax
=

n

det A
.
In particular, if A is the diagonal matrix with entries a
2
1
, . . . , a
2
n
, we obtain
_
x
2
1
a
2
1
++
x
2
n
a
2
n
=1
dvol
n1
_
x
2
1
a
4
1
+ +
x
2
n
a
4
n
=
n
a
1
. . . a
n
,
a result obtained in Problem 1128 with much more eort required.
PROBLEM 141. Prove that if f is a real-valued function and F is a vector eld,
then the product rule is valid:
(fF) = f F +f F.
PROBLEM 142. Prove these special relations for R
3
:
divergence of a curl = 0, i.e.
(F) = 0,
and
(F G) = G F F G.
Perhaps the most important use of the Gauss theorem is that it aords us a geometric
interpretation of divergence. This interpretation is in the same spirit as our previous dis-
cussions of gradient, in Section 2F, Geometric signicance of the gradient, and of curl , in
Section 13G, What is curl?
We approach this by rst understanding the geometry of the integral over bdD in the right
side of Gauss theorem. The terminology that is used derives from applications to uid ow
or electric elds. If F is a vector eld in R
n
and M is a hypermanifold for which a preferred
side has been chosen by naming a continuous unit normal vector

N, then F

N is the
component of F orthogonal to M, with a denite sign axed. Then the integral
_
M
F

Ndvol
n1
6 Chapter 14
in a sense measures the net amount of the vector eld that crosses M. This is usually called
the net ux of F across M.
Then the right side of Gauss theorem, the integral
_
bdD
F

Ndvol
n1
,
represents the net ux of the vector eld in the direction outward from D across its boundary.
Thus Gauss theorem becomes in words,
_
D
Fdvol
n
= ux of F out from D.
Now let x
0
R
n
be a xed point, and choose D to be the ball B(x
0
, ) with center x
0
and
radius . If is small, we have a good approximation
_
B(x
0
,)
Fdvol
n
F(x
0
) vol
n
(B(x
0
, )).
Thus we obtain the formula
F(x
0
) = lim
0
1
vol
n
(B(x
0
, ))
_
S(x
0
,)
F

Ndvol
n1
,
which we express in words as
F(x
0
) = the ux of F away from x
0
, per unit volume.
Hence the word divergence.
Once again, we have an amazing situation that although F was originally dened in a
way that crucially required a coordinate system, the fact is that the quotient
1
vol
n
(B(x
0
, ))
_
S(x
0
,)
F

Ndvol
n1
manifestly is independent of any coordinate system; therefore, its limit as 0, namely the
divergence of F at x
0
, is also completely determined geometrically.
PROTOEXAMPLE. This example in case n = 3 is the force eld of a unit electric charge
placed at the origin, or the gravitational eld of a unit mass at the origin. In the case n = 3
its called the inverse square law. For general n, we have to within a constant factor
F(x) =
x
x
n
.
Gauss theorem 7
Then we calculate from the product rule of Problem 141,
F =
x
x
n
+(x
n
) x
=
n
x
n
+ (nx
n2
x) x
=
n
x
n
nx
n2
x
2
= 0.
Of course we notice the crucial role here of the power n. It comes from the fact that on R
n
we have x = n. Thus on R
n
our vector eld is
F(x) =
x/x
x
n1
,
so its an inverse (n 1) power law.
Now we compute an easy case, the outward ux of F across the sphere S(0, a). As the
outward unit normal is

N = x/a, we nd
_
S(0,a)
F

Ndvol
n1
=
_
S(0,a)
x
a
n

x
a
dvol
n1
=
_
S(0,a)
a
2
a
n+1
dvol
n1
= vol
n1
(S(0, 1))
= n
n
.
O
NOTATION. In the present investigations the number n
n
is going to be appearing quite
often. Let us denote it as

n
= n
n
= vol
n1
(S(0, 1)).
That is,
n
is the measure of the unit sphere in R
n
. Thus

2
= 2,

3
= 4,

4
= 2
2
,
8 Chapter 14
and in general

n
=
2
n/2
(n/2)
(see p. 1115).
Now suppose D is a region in R
n
such that the origin is exterior to it; that is, 0 / clD.
Since F is well dened in clD and has zero divergence, Gauss theorem implies immediately
that
_
bdD
F

Ndvol
n1
= 0.
O
D
On the other hand, suppose the origin is in the interior of D: 0 D. Then we can prove
that
_
bdD
F

Ndvol
n1
=
n
.
This is seen very easily by using what is often called a safety ball. That is a ball B(0, )
whose radius is so small that clB(0, ) D.
D
Then D B(0, ) is safe in that the origin is not in it, so we have from the preceding case
_
bd(DB(0,))
F

Ndvol
n1
= 0.
But bd(D B(0, )) is composed of the two disjoint portions bdD and the sphere S(0, ).
Thus
_
bdD
F

Ndvol
n1
+
_
S(0,)
F

Ndvol
n1
= 0.
The latter integrand has

N = x/, as

N is oriented outward relative to D B(0, ). Thus
the latter integral is actually equal to
n
. This proves the desired equation.
Gauss theorem 9
Another viewpoint of the above analysis is to move the center of the eld from the origin
to an arbitrary point x
0
by translation. Then we obtain
_
bdD
x x
0
x x
0

n

Ndvol
n1
=
_

n
if x
0
D,
0 if x
0
clD.
The case x
0
bdD does not fall in either category.
PROBLEM 143. One might guess that for x
0
bdD
_
bdD
x x
0
x x
0

n

Ndvol
n1
=
1
2

n
.
Show that this is indeed the case if n = 2 and 3 and D is a ball (disk if n = 2).
PROBLEM 144. Show that the result of the preceding problem is valid for all n 2.
NAMES. In Russian texts Gauss theorem is called Ostrogradskis theorem. Its also frequently
called the divergence theorem.
C. The proof
In one sense the proof we give is a generalization of the proof of Greens theorem as given
in Chapter 12. The basic idea of integrating rst in the direction of the partial derivative in
the integrand is still the key ingredient of the proof. That is, we want to prove that for each
xed index i
_
D
F
i
x
i
dvol
n
=
_
bdD
F
i

N e
i
dvol
n1
,
and so we approach this by performing the x
i
-integration on the left side before the other
integrations. We then sum for i = 1, . . . , n, to obtain the theorem. In our analysis we may as
well replace the component F
i
with just a real-valued function f of class C
1
. Thus we need
to prove
_
D
f
x
i
dvol
n
=
_
bdD
fN
i
dvol
n1
, ()
where N
i
=

N e
i
is the i
th
component of the outer unit normal vector

N.
In another sense the proof we present here is much more ecient than the one we gave in
Chapter 12, as we employ a beautiful technical device to get around the troublesome details
about patching results together (see Section 12C). This technique is called a partition of unity.
10 Chapter 14
Here is a brief description of it. Suppose > 0 is given. Then there is a set of C
1
functions

1
, . . . ,
N
dened on R
n
such that
N

k=1

k
= 1 on clD,
for each k,
k
= 0 outside some ball of radius .
This is easier to prove than you might imagine. One rst chooses nonnegative
k
s with
the second property, such that their sum is positive on clD, and then each is normalized by
dividing by their sum. Incidentally, instead of C
1
we could use C
2
or C
3
etc., or even C

.
Using such a partition of unity, it suces to prove () for each product
k
the results to achieve the theorem. Another way of expressing this is to say that we may
assume ab initio that f itself is zero except on some small ball.
There are now two separate cases to handle. The rst is the case in which the ball where
f is nonzero is contained in (the interior of) the open set D. Then the right side of () is zero
since its integrand fN
i
equals zero on bdD. But also the left side is zero, as we can write
_
D
f
x
i
dvol
n
=
_
R
n
f
x
i
dvol
n
Fubini
=
_
R
n1
__

f
x
i
dx
i
_
dvol
n1
and the inner integral
_

f
x
i
dx
i
= 0
by the fundamental theorem of calculus.
That was easy. The second case is not much harder but is very much more interesting. In
this case f is nonzero only in a small ball, but this ball intersects bdD. Here we explain the
philosophy behind our partition of unity. We choose the balls so small that when one of them
intersects bdD the open set D near that ball has a particular sort of description. Namely,
it can be represented as one side of a graph of a C
1
function. For instance, consider the
following typical situation:
D
Gauss theorem 11
The portion of D in the illustrated ball is described by an inequality of the form
x
j
> (x
1
, . . . , x
j1
, x
j+1
, . . . , x
n
).
(If the ball were on the right side of the picture, the dening inequality would appear as
x
j
< (x
1
, . . . , x
j1
, x
j+1
, . . . , x
n
).
We content ourselves with the rst case in the proof.)
We pause to streamline some of the notation. First, since f is zero outside the small ball,
we may as well assume f is dened for all x
j
satisfying the given inequality.
Second, we may as well arrange coordinates so that j = n. This merely has the eect of
greatly shortening the notation.
Third, we denote by x

= (x
1
, . . . , x
n1
) so that f is dened for all points x satisfying
x
n
> (x

), x

R,
where R R
n1
is some small ball.
We now have formulas for

N and dvol
n1
. Namely, since

N is the outward unit normal,

N =
(/x
1
, . . . , /x
n1
, 1)
_

2
+ 1
,
and
dvol
n1
=
_

2
+ 1 dx
1
. . . dx
n1
=
_

2
+ 1 dx

.
Thus
N
i
dvol
n1
=
_
/x
i
dx

if i = n,
dx

if i = n.
These formulas require us to nish with two dierent cases.
i = n In this easier case we have
_
D
f
x
n
dvol
n
Fubini
=
_
R
_

(x

)
f
x
n
dx
n
dx

FTC
=
_
R
f

x
n
=
x
n
=(x

)
dx

=
_
R
f(x

, (x

))dx

=
_
bdD
fN
n
dvol
n1
,
12 Chapter 14
and () is proved.
i = n Here we have to face the problem that doing the x
i
integration rst may not be so
feasible. We need to do the x
n
integration rst, so for each xed x

R we shall change
variables by setting
x
n
= (x

) + t.
Then 0 < t < and we have
_
D
f
x
i
dvol
n
Fubini
=
_
R
_

(x

)
f
x
i
(x

, x
n
)dx
n
dx

=
_
R
_

0
f
x
i
(x

, (x

) + t)dtdx

Fubini
=
_
R(0,)
f
x
i
(x

, (x

) + t)dtdx

chain rule
=
_
R(0,)
_

x
i
(f(x

, (x

) + t))

x
i
f
x
n
_
dtdx

.
We now have two integrations to perform. We handle the rst by doing the x
i
integration
rst. The result is zero, as for each xed t we essentially have
_

x
i
(f(x

, (x

) + t)) dx
i
FTC
= 0.
In the second integral we return from t to x
n
. Thus we have
_
D
f
x
i
dvol
n
=
_
R(0,)

x
i
f
x
n
(x

, (x

) + t)dtdx

=
_
R

x
i
_

(x

)
f
x
n
(x

, x
n
)dx
n
dx

FTC
=
_
R

x
i
f(x

, x
n
)

x
n
=
x
n
=(x

)
dx

=
_
R

x
i
f(x

, (x

))dx

=
_
bdD
fN
i
dvol
n1
.
This nishes the proof of Gauss theorem.
Gauss theorem 13
D. Gravity
The applications of Gauss theorem are quite diverse and important. Especially in the
rudiments of electricity and magnetism and in gravitation we nd the theorem playing an
important role. We content ourselves here with some observations on gravitation.
Isaac Newtons theory includes as an axiom that two point masses in R
3
attract one another
with an inverse square force. We of course are determined to generalize this to R
n
, where it
presumably makes no physical sense. So suppose we have a mass m
1
located at x R
n
and
another one m
2
located at y R
n
. Then the force at y due to the mass at x is equal to the
vector
Gm
1
m
2
x y
x y
n
,
where the number G > 0 is called the gravitational constant. We shall assume from now on
that G = 1.
One of the rst things that can be proved has to do with a mass distributed uniformly
over a sphere. We can set this situation up in the following way. Let us suppose the sphere
is centered at the origin, so that it equals S(0, a), where a is its radius. Let us suppose the
mass spread over this sphere is M. We say the mass density is the constant
M
vol
n1
(S(0, a))
=
M

n
a
n1
.
Now suppose that we have a unit point mass located at y. Then according to Newton the
force at y due to the mass spread over the sphere is given by the integral
_
S(0,a)
x y
x y
n
M

n
a
n1
dvol
n1
(x).
What we are going to do now is calculate this integral.
In doing the calculation we may choose coordinates to suit ourselves, so let us place the
positive n
th
coordinate direction pointing toward y. In other words, we assume that y = r e
n
,
where of course r = y.
O
14 Chapter 14
By symmetry we notice that the above integral, which is a vector, must have zero components
in the directions orthogonal to e
n
. Thus we may as well just compute the n
th
coordinate of
the integral, that is
M

n
a
n1
_
S(0,a)
x
n
r
x r e
n

n
dvol
n1
(x).
THE PHYSICAL CASE n = 3. It is quite impressive that the easiest dimension for performing
the above integral is n = 3. We now carry this out. First, we use the familiar result
x y
2
= x
2
2x y +y
2
to rewrite the denominator, obtaining
M
4a
2
_
S(0,a)
x
3
r
(a
2
2rx
3
+ r
2
)
3/2
dvol
2
(x).
Next use the usual spherical coordinates with x
3
= a cos , to obtain
M
4a
2
2
_

0
a cos r
(a
2
2ar cos + r
2
)
3/2
a
2
sin d
=
M
2
_

0
a cos r
(a
2
2ar cos + r
2
)
3/2
sin d.
PROBLEM 145. Physics texts know what to do here. Make the substitution
u = a
2
2ar cos + r
2
to change the dummy into u, and thus show that the above integral equals
_

_
M/r
2
if r > a,
M/2a
2
if r = a,
0 if 0 r < a.
The physical interpretation of this result is well known and extremely important. Namely,
at points outside the closed ball B(0, a) the gravitational attraction of the uniform mass spread
over the sphere is the same as if all the mass were concentrated at the center of the sphere.
At points in the interior B(0, a) of the ball, the gravitational attraction is zero. And at points
Gauss theorem 15
on the sphere S(0, a) itself, the gravitational attraction is the same as if all the mass were
concentrated at the center of the sphere, divided by 2.
PROBLEM 146. (not recommended) Repeat all of the above for the case n = 2.
The integration is much more dicult; a table of integrals might be helpful.
At this point you should be wondering what any of this has to do with Gauss theorem.
We now explain this. The direct calculation of the integral on the preceding page is quite a
formidable task. The case n = 3 is not so bad, but the case n = 2 is extremely dicult, and
one can imagine that the situation for general n could be even worse. Now we are going to
show how a combination of some beautiful Euclidean geometry and Gauss theorem enable us
to calculate the integral very easily.
INVERSION. The geometry we have just referred to is called inversion in a sphere. (See
pp. 634 and 723.) Suppose that S(0, a) is a sphere in R
n
and y R
n
. As you will see, we
must assume y = 0. We then say that the inversion of y is the point y

which is uniquely
dened by requiring that it lie on the ray from 0 through y and that yy

= a
2
. In other
words,
y

=
a
2
y
2
y.
Notice that
y

= y
and that
y

= y y S(0, a).
PROBLEM 147. Verify the following picture: we assume y > a and that a line
has been drawn from y tangent to the sphere at the point z. The picture is then in the
unique two-dimensional plane determined by 0, y, and z.
O
16 Chapter 14
PROBLEM 148. As in the preceding problem, verify this similar two-dimensional
depiction of the relation between y and y

.
O
N
S
Now we notice a very interesting phenomenon. If x S(0, a), then
x y

2
= x
2
2x y

+y

2
= a
2
2x
a
2
y
y
2
+
a
4
y
2
=
a
2
y
2
_
y
2
2x y + a
2
_
=
a
2
y
2
_
y
2
2x y +x
2
_
=
a
2
y
2
y x
2
.
That is,
x y

=
a
y
x y for all x S(0, a).
This equation is quite interesting, in that it shows that the ratio x y

/x y is constant
in its dependence on x S(0, a).
We now return to the calculation of the integral at the bottom of p. 1412. We of course
may assume y = 0, since when y = 0 the integral equals zero thanks to the oddness of
the integrand. By symmetry it is clear that the vector represented by this integral has zero
components in directions orthogonal to y; in other words,
M

n
a
n1
_
S(0,a)
x y
x y
n
dvol
n1
(x) = cy,
Gauss theorem 17
where c is a scalar. In other words, the gravitational attraction at y points toward the origin.
As we just need to calculate c, let us form the dot product of each side of the equation with
y, denoting r = y. We obtain
M

n
a
n1
_
S(0,a)
x y r
2
x y
n
dvol
n1
(x) = cr
2
.
As we are wanting to apply the divergence theorem, we would like the integrand to be presented
as the dot product of a vector eld with

N, which is equal to x/a. Therefore we write the
numerator
x y r
2
= x y
r
2
a
2
x x
=
_
y
r
2
a
2
x
_
x
=
_
y
r
2
a
2
x
_
a

N
=
r
2
a
_
x
a
2
r
2
y
_

N
=
r
2
a
(x y

)

N.
Aha! Notice how naturally the inversion y

## has appeared! We thus have found that

c =
M

n
a
n
_
S(0,a)
x y

x y
n

Ndvol
n1
(x).
Now we utilize the relationship between x y and x y

to nd that
c =
M

n
r
n
_
S(0,a)
x y

x y

n

Ndvol
n1
(x).
We nd that we are in the situation of the protoexample of Section B. There are three
cases.
y > a In this case y

## < a, so we obtain from p. 148 that

c =
M
r
n
.
18 Chapter 14
y < a In this case y

## > a, so we obtain instead

c = 0.
y = a In this case y

## = a, so Problem 144 gives

c =
M
2a
n
.
In summary, the gravitational attraction of a uniform mass distribution over a sphere in
R
n
behaves in the exterior of the sphere as if all the mass were concentrated at the center,
and is zero in the interior of the sphere. At points on the sphere itself, it is as if all the mass
were concentrated at the center, divided by 2.
E. Other dierentiation formulas
PROBLEM 149. In analogy with the formula for curlF given on p. 1322, suppose
that {
1
, . . . ,
n
} is an orthonormal basis for R
n
, and represent points in coordinates
relative to this basis as
x = t
1

1
+ + t
n

n
.
Then explain why
divF =
n

i=1

t
i
(F
i
).
PROBLEM 1410. Explain why the formula just presented can also be written in
terms of directional derivatives as
divF =
n

i=1
D(F
i
;
i
).
Then show that this formula remains true for a general orthogonal basis.
DEFINITION. Given a vector A R
n
, the rst-order dierential operator A is dened
by
(A )(f) = A f,
where f is a real-valued dierentiable function.
Gauss theorem 19
REMARK. Since both gradient and dot product have intrinsic meaning, so does this oper-
ator. In fact, it is clear that in terms of directional derivatives
(A )f(x) = Df(x; A).
PROBLEM 1411. Show that for vector elds F and G on R
3
we have
(F G) = ( G)F ( F)G + (G )F (F )G.
PROBLEM 1412. Show that for a vector eld F on R
3
,
(F) =
2
F +( F).
In this formula the Laplacian of F is the vector eld

2
F =
3

i=1

2
F
x
2
i
.
F. The vector potential
This section corresponds to Section 12F, where we considered the problem of nding a
(real valued) potential for a vector eld with zero curl. That is, given a vector eld F on R
3
satisfying F = 0, we sought a potential function f for which F = f. We based our
thinking on the dierentiation formula
f = 0
(see Section 13G).
The analogous formula we now investigate is the one which states
(G) = 0
for any C
2
vector eld G on R
3
(see Problem 142). We are thus naturally led to the following
question: if F is a vector eld on R
3
for which F = 0, does there exist a vector eld G
satisfying
F = G?
20 Chapter 14
The answer is yes, provided that F is a vector eld dened on all of R
3
. The proof amounts
to a rather logical procedure of integrating the above dierential equation for G. Before doing
this, note that there is a strong lack of uniqueness. For if F = G
1
and also F = G
2
,
then 0 = (G
1
G
2
). Thus from Section 12F we conclude that G
1
G
2
= f for some
function f. Conversely, since (f) = 0, we can always add to G any gradient eld without
changing the validity of F = G.
DEFINITION. A vector eld G satisfying the equation
F = G
is called a vector potential for the eld F.
THEOREM. Suppose F is a vector eld of class C
1
dened on all of R
3
, and suppose
F = 0. Then there exists a vector potential for F; this vector potential is unique up to the
PROOF. The dierential equations which G must satisfy are
G
3
x
2

G
2
x
3
= F
1
,
G
1
x
3

G
3
x
1
= F
2
,
G
2
x
1

G
1
x
2
= F
3
.
This task seems daunting at rst glance. However, we may as well assume G
3
0, for we can
nd a function f whose gradient equals
f = (?, ?, G
3
)
by the simple device of writing
f(x) =
_
x
3
0
G(x
1
, x
2
, t)dt.
Then Gf has zero third component.
With G
3
= 0, the equations now become

G
2
x
3
= F
1
,
G
1
x
3
= F
2
,
G
2
x
1

G
1
x
2
= F
3
.
Gauss theorem 21
Now choose G
2
to be any function satisfying the rst of these equations. It remains to solve
for G
1
. Integrate the second equation to nd G
1
to within an additive function f(x
1
, x
2
):
G
1
= G
0
1
+ f(x
1
, x
2
).
Then we need to nd f so that the third equation is satised. That is,
f
x
2
= F
3

G
0
1
x
2
+
G
2
x
1
.
There is no problem integrating this equation, provided that its right side is independent of
x
3
. We check this easily:

x
3
_
F
3

G
0
1
x
2
+
G
2
x
1
_
=
F
3
x
3

2
G
0
1
x
3
x
2
+

2
G
2
x
3
x
1
=
F
3
x
3

2
G
0
1
x
2
x
3
+

2
G
2
x
1
x
3
=
F
3
x
3

F
2
x
2

F
1
x
1
= 0 by hypothesis.
QED
PROBLEM 1413. Show that the above procedure produces for a constant vector
eld F the vector potential G = (x
3
F
2
x
2
F
3
, x
3
F
1
, 0).
PROBLEM 1414. If F is constant we earlier calculated that
1
2
F x is a suitable
vector potential (see Problem 1310). Find a function f so that the solution of the
preceding problem satises
G
1
2
F x = f.
PROBLEM 1415. Using the notation of Problem 1311, suppose F(x) = Ax is a
linear vector eld. Prove that F = traceA. Supposing traceA = 0, nd a vector
potential G for F.
22 Chapter 14
PROBLEM 1416. Suppose f and g are real valued functions of class C
2
dened on
an open set D R
3
. Dene the vector eld
F = f g.
Prove that F = 0, and nd a vector potential for F which is dened on D.
(HINT: compute (fg).)
PROBLEM 1417. Show that the vector eld
F =
_
y
x
2
+ y
2
,
x
x
2
+ y
2
, 0
_
has zero divergence on R
3
(z-axis). Show that it has a vector potential of the form
f(x, y)

## k, and calculate a suitable f explicitly.

PROBLEM 1418*. Show that the vector eld
F =
_
x
x
2
+ y
2
,
y
x
2
+ y
2
, 0
_
has zero divergence on R
3
(z-axis), and nd a vector potential for F which is dened
on all of R
3
(z-axis).
PROBLEM 1419. (The analog of Section 12G.) Suppose that F is a C
1
vector eld
dened on a star shaped open set D R
3
. Suppose that F has zero divergence. Supposing
that D is star shaped with respect to the origin, dene the vector eld
G(x) =
_
1
0
F(tx) txdt.
Prove that
G = F.
Gauss theorem 23
PROBLEM 1420. Use the preceding problem to give another solution of Problem
1415, and show that the corresponding vector potential is
1
3
(Ax) x.
PROBLEM 1421. Consider the gravitational vector eld
F =
(x, y, z)
(x
2
+ y
2
+ z
2
)
3/2
on R
3
origin. It has zero divergence. Use the scheme of the general theorem of this
section to nd a vector potential. Show that you may reach an answer in the form
G =
z
(x
2
+ y
2
)
_
x
2
+ y
2
+ z
2
(y, x, 0).
PROBLEM 1422. The solution which you obtained for the preceding problem may
seem unsatisfactory, as it is not only badly behaved at the origin (necessarily), but also
on the entire z axis. Prove that in fact there is no vector potential for the gravitational
eld F dened on all of R
3
origin.
(HINT: supposing such a potential G would exist, compute
__
unit sphere
F

Ndarea
two dierent ways.)