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In this section, you will:
  • Model exponential growth and decay.
  • Use Newton’s Law of Cooling.
  • Use logistic-growth models.
  • Choose an appropriate model for data.
  • Express an exponential model in base e .
Inside a nuclear research reactor.
A nuclear research reactor inside the Neely Nuclear Research Center on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus (credit: Georgia Tech Research Institute)

We have already explored some basic applications of exponential and logarithmic functions. In this section, we explore some important applications in more depth, including radioactive isotopes and Newton’s Law of Cooling.

Modeling exponential growth and decay

In real-world applications, we need to model the behavior of a function. In mathematical modeling, we choose a familiar general function with properties that suggest that it will model the real-world phenomenon we wish to analyze. In the case of rapid growth, we may choose the exponential growth function:

y = A 0 e k t

where A 0 is equal to the value at time zero, e is Euler’s constant, and k is a positive constant that determines the rate (percentage) of growth. We may use the exponential growth    function in applications involving doubling time , the time it takes for a quantity to double. Such phenomena as wildlife populations, financial investments, biological samples, and natural resources may exhibit growth based on a doubling time. In some applications, however, as we will see when we discuss the logistic equation, the logistic model sometimes fits the data better than the exponential model.

On the other hand, if a quantity is falling rapidly toward zero, without ever reaching zero, then we should probably choose the exponential decay model. Again, we have the form y = A 0 e k t where A 0 is the starting value, and e is Euler’s constant. Now k is a negative constant that determines the rate of decay. We may use the exponential decay model when we are calculating half-life    , or the time it takes for a substance to exponentially decay to half of its original quantity. We use half-life in applications involving radioactive isotopes.

In our choice of a function to serve as a mathematical model, we often use data points gathered by careful observation and measurement to construct points on a graph and hope we can recognize the shape of the graph. Exponential growth and decay graphs have a distinctive shape, as we can see in [link] and [link] . It is important to remember that, although parts of each of the two graphs seem to lie on the x -axis, they are really a tiny distance above the x -axis.

Graph of y=2e^(3x) with the labeled points (-1/3, 2/e), (0, 2), and (1/3, 2e) and with the asymptote at y=0.
A graph showing exponential growth. The equation is y = 2 e 3 x .
Graph of y=3e^(-2x) with the labeled points (-1/2, 3e), (0, 3), and (1/2, 3/e) and with the asymptote at y=0.
A graph showing exponential decay. The equation is y = 3 e 2 x .

Exponential growth and decay often involve very large or very small numbers. To describe these numbers, we often use orders of magnitude. The order of magnitude    is the power of ten, when the number is expressed in scientific notation, with one digit to the left of the decimal. For example, the distance to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri , measured in kilometers, is 40,113,497,200,000 kilometers. Expressed in scientific notation, this is 4.01134972 × 10 13 . So, we could describe this number as having order of magnitude 10 13 .

Questions & Answers

The average annual population increase of a pack of wolves is 25.
Brittany Reply
how do you find the period of a sine graph
Imani Reply
Period =2π if there is a coefficient (b), just divide the coefficient by 2π to get the new period
if not then how would I find it from a graph
by looking at the graph, find the distance between two consecutive maximum points (the highest points of the wave). so if the top of one wave is at point A (1,2) and the next top of the wave is at point B (6,2), then the period is 5, the difference of the x-coordinates.
you could also do it with two consecutive minimum points or x-intercepts
I will try that thank u
Case of Equilateral Hyperbola
Jhon Reply
f(x)=4x+2, find f(3)
f(3)=4(3)+2 f(3)=14
pre calc teacher: "Plug in Plug in...smell's good" f(x)=14
Explain why log a x is not defined for a < 0
Baptiste Reply
the sum of any two linear polynomial is what
Esther Reply
divide simplify each answer 3/2÷5/4
Momo Reply
divide simplify each answer 25/3÷5/12
how can are find the domain and range of a relations
austin Reply
the range is twice of the natural number which is the domain
A cell phone company offers two plans for minutes. Plan A: $15 per month and $2 for every 300 texts. Plan B: $25 per month and $0.50 for every 100 texts. How many texts would you need to send per month for plan B to save you money?
Diddy Reply
more than 6000
can I see the picture
Zairen Reply
How would you find if a radical function is one to one?
Peighton Reply
how to understand calculus?
Jenica Reply
with doing calculus
Thanks po.
Hey I am new to precalculus, and wanted clarification please on what sine is as I am floored by the terms in this app? I don't mean to sound stupid but I have only completed up to college algebra.
rachel Reply
I don't know if you are looking for a deeper answer or not, but the sine of an angle in a right triangle is the length of the opposite side to the angle in question divided by the length of the hypotenuse of said triangle.
can you give me sir tips to quickly understand precalculus. Im new too in that topic. Thanks
if you remember sine, cosine, and tangent from geometry, all the relationships are the same but they use x y and r instead (x is adjacent, y is opposite, and r is hypotenuse).
it is better to use unit circle than triangle .triangle is only used for acute angles but you can begin with. Download any application named"unit circle" you find in it all you need. unit circle is a circle centred at origine (0;0) with radius r= 1.
What is domain
the standard equation of the ellipse that has vertices (0,-4)&(0,4) and foci (0, -15)&(0,15) it's standard equation is x^2 + y^2/16 =1 tell my why is it only x^2? why is there no a^2?
Reena Reply
what is foci?
Reena Reply
This term is plural for a focus, it is used for conic sections. For more detail or other math questions. I recommend researching on "Khan academy" or watching "The Organic Chemistry Tutor" YouTube channel.
how to determine the vertex,focus,directrix and axis of symmetry of the parabola by equations
Bryssen Reply
Practice Key Terms 6

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