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Mathematics LibreTexts

8: Nonlinear Equations

  • Page ID
    360
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    Linear equations suffice in many applications, but in reality most phenomena require nonlinear equations. Nonlinear equations, however, are notoriously more difficult to understand than linear ones, and many strange new phenomena appear when we allow our equations to be nonlinear.

    • 8.1: Linearization, critical points, and equilibria
      Nonlinear equations can often be approximated by linear ones if we only need a solution "locally," for example, only for a short period of time, or only for certain parameters. Understanding linear equations can also give us qualitative understanding about a more general nonlinear problem. The idea is similar to what you did in calculus in trying to approximate a function by a line with the right slope.
    • 8.2: Stability and classification of isolated critical points
      A critical point is isolated if it is the only critical point in some small "neighborhood" of the point. That is, if we zoom in far enough it is the only critical point we see. In the above example, the critical point was isolated. If on the other hand there would be a whole curve of critical points, then it would not be isolated.
    • 8.3: Applications of nonlinear systems
      In this section we will study two very standard examples of nonlinear systems. First, we will look at the nonlinear pendulum equation. We saw the pendulum equation's linearization before, but we noted it was only valid for small angles and short times. Now we will find out what happens for large angles. Next, we will look at the predator-prey equation, which finds various applications in modeling problems in biology, chemistry, economics and elsewhere.
    • 8.4: Limit cycles
      For nonlinear systems, trajectories do not simply need to approach or leave a single point. They may in fact approach a larger set, such as a circle or another closed curve.
    • 8.5: Chaos
      Mathematical chaos is not really chaos, there is precise order behind the scenes. Everything is still deterministic. However a chaotic system is extremely sensitive to initial conditions. This also means even small errors induced via numerical approximation create large errors very quickly, so it is almost impossible to numerically approximate for long times. This is large part of the trouble as chaotic systems cannot be in general solved analytically.
    • 8.E: Nonlinear Equations (Exercises)
      These are homework exercises to accompany Libl's "Differential Equations for Engineering" Textmap. This is a textbook targeted for a one semester first course on differential equations, aimed at engineering students. Prerequisite for the course is the basic calculus sequence.

    Thumbnail: A double rod pendulum animation showing chaotic behavior. Starting the pendulum from a slightly different initial condition would result in a completely different trajectory. The double rod pendulum is one of the simplest dynamical systems that has chaotic solutions. Image used with permission (Public Domain; Catslash).

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