

Logarithm Applications
Name: Tanya D.
Status: student
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A
Question:
I am investigating the importance of
logarithms, in today's world. After surfing for hours on the web, all I found was
that logs play a vital role in finance and astronomy. I could not find
any further details. What I would like to know is how help in finance
and astronomy.
Replies:
Logarithms can play a role anywhere you will find exponentials. In my
field of engineering, an exponent can make it difficult to find some
correlations to events, but a logarithm can linearize the equation to make
it more manageable to solve. Also, graphically, loglog graphs can be
easier to read and "see" the
correlation between events. Where exponents exists in an equations,
logarithms could be used in solving for certain variables related to the
exponents. For example in biology, the growth of bacteria can be
measure with the equation y(new)=y(old)*e^xt, where y(new) is the count
of bacteria, y(old) is the previous amount of bacteria, x is a variable
dependent on the bacteria strain, and t in the time of growth. In order
to find t, one would have to use logarithms to solve for t.
Although outdated because of advances in computers and calculators,
logarithms are what make slide rules work. They allowed the linear
addition (or subtraction) of logarithm which in turn is multiplication
(and division) of numbers. If you happen to find an old slide rule, I
suggest you learn how to use it by getting a slide rule manual at your
local library. It gives you a good idea of how and why logarithms work.
Also, you might look into the history of it a little more by looking for
information on Napier.
Good luck.
Chris Murphy, PE
Tanya,
Logarithms are useful in at least two major circumstances:
One is where exponential functions are used. Just as division is the
inverse of multiplication, a logarithm is the inverse of an exponential
function. In physics, a common use is radioactive decay. The amount of
radioactive material remaining after some time passes is the product of the
initial amount and an exponential function of (t/t0). To calculate the
amount remaining as a function of time requires an exponential function. To
go backwards, to calculate the time passed as a function of the amount of
radioactive material remaining, requires a logarithmic function.
Another is where the area under a 1/x curve is needed. When you learn
calculus, you will see that the area under a 1/x curve is a ln(x). Anytime
something changes at a rate proportional to 1/x, the total value is
logarithmic. Such effects occur in electricity and magnetism. You may not
see it until you study physics at the level of calculus (i.e. rates that are
not constant), but logarithms are used.
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Physics Instructor
Illinois Central College
First, a definition of logarithms: The "log(N)" to the base "a" is the power
"p" to which "a" must be raised to obtain "N". So: a^p = N or a^(log(N)) =
N. For example, 100 = 10^2 so the log of 100 to the base 10 is 2. Or in a
less familiar example: 243 = 3^5. So 5 is the log(243) to the base 3.
Second, your specific inquiry would fill volumes so rather than just give
you a list, I suggest you what I did and do a search on: www.google.com
on the term: "logarithm applications". You will find dozens and dozens of
sites that discuss various uses and applications of logarithms.
Vince Calder
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Update: June 2012

