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Mathematics LibreTexts

16: Vector Calculus

In this chapter, we learn to model new kinds of integrals over fields such as magnetic fields, gravitational fields, or velocity fields. We also learn how to calculate the work done on a charged particle traveling through a magnetic field, the work done on a particle with mass traveling through a gravitational field, and the volume per unit time of water flowing through a net dropped in a river. All these applications are based on the concept of a vector field. The content in this Textmap's chapter is complemented by Vector Calculus Modules in the Core and the Vector Calculus (UCD Mat 21D) Libretext.

  • 16.0: Prelude to Vector Calculus
    Vector fields have many applications because they can be used to model real fields such as electromagnetic or gravitational fields. A deep understanding of physics or engineering is impossible without an understanding of vector fields. Furthermore, vector fields have mathematical properties that are worthy of study in their own right. In particular, vector fields can be used to develop several higher-dimensional versions of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.
  • 16.1: Vector Fields
    Vector fields are an important tool for describing many physical concepts, such as gravitation and electromagnetism, which affect the behavior of objects over a large region of a plane or of space. They are also useful for dealing with large-scale behavior such as atmospheric storms or deep-sea ocean currents. In this section, we examine the basic definitions and graphs of vector fields so we can study them in more detail in the rest of this chapter.
  • 16.2: Line Integrals
    Line integrals have many applications to engineering and physics. They also allow us to make several useful generalizations of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. And, they are closely connected to the properties of vector fields, as we shall see.
  • 16.3: Conservative Vector Fields
    In this section, we continue the study of conservative vector fields. We examine the Fundamental Theorem for Line Integrals, which is a useful generalization of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus to line integrals of conservative vector fields. We also discover show how to test whether a given vector field is conservative, and determine how to build a potential function for a vector field known to be conservative.
  • 16.4: Green’s Theorem
    Green’s theorem is an extension of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus to two dimensions. It has two forms: a circulation form and a flux form, both of which require region D in the double integral to be simply connected. However, we will extend Green’s theorem to regions that are not simply connected. Green’s theorem relates a line integral around a simply closed plane curve C and a double integral over the region enclosed by C.
  • 16.5: Divergence and Curl
    Divergence and curl are two important operations on a vector field. They are important to the field of calculus for several reasons, including the use of curl and divergence to develop some higher-dimensional versions of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. In addition, curl and divergence appear in mathematical descriptions of fluid mechanics, electromagnetism, and elasticity theory, which are important concepts in physics and engineering.
  • 16.6: Surface Integrals
    If we wish to integrate over a surface (a two-dimensional object) rather than a path (a one-dimensional object) in space, then we need a new kind of integral. We can extend the concept of a line integral to a surface integral to allow us to perform this integration. Surface integrals are important for the same reasons that line integrals are important. They have many applications to physics and engineering, and they allow us to expand the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus to higher dimensions.
  • 16.7: Stokes’ Theorem
    In this section, we study Stokes’ theorem, a higher-dimensional generalization of Green’s theorem. This theorem, like the Fundamental Theorem for Line Integrals and Green’s theorem, is a generalization of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus to higher dimensions. Stokes’ theorem relates a vector surface integral over surface S in space to a line integral around the boundary of S.
  • 16.8: The Divergence Theorem
    We have examined several versions of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus in higher dimensions that relate the integral around an oriented boundary of a domain to a “derivative” of that entity on the oriented domain. In this section, we state the divergence theorem, which is the final theorem of this type that we will study.
  • 16.E: Vector Calculus (Exercises)
    These are homework exercises to accompany Chapter 16 of OpenStax's "Calculus" Textmap.