First Application of Definite Integral

Read this section to see how some applied problems can be reformulated as integration problems. Work through practice problems 1-4.

First Applications of Definite Integrals

The development of calculus by Newton and Leibniz was a vital step in the advancement of pure mathematics, but Newton also advanced the applied sciences and mathematics. Not only did he discover theoretical results, but he immediately used those results to answer important applied questions about gravity and motion. The success of these applications of mathematics to the physical sciences helped establish what we now take for granted: mathematics can and should be used to answer questions about the world.

Newton applied mathematics to the outstanding problems of his day, problems primarily in the field of physics. In the intervening 300 years, thousands of people have continued these theoretical and applied traditions and have used mathematics to help develop our understanding of all of the physical and biological sciences as well as the behavioral sciences and business. Mathematics is still used to answer new questions in physics and engineering, but it is also important for modeling ecological processes, for understanding the behavior of DNA, for determining how the brain works, and even for devising strategies for voting effectively. The mathematics you are learning now can help you become part of this tradition, and you might even use it to add to our understanding of different areas of life. 

It is important to understand the successful applications of integration in case you need to use those particular applications. It is also important that you understand the process of building models with integrals so you can apply it to new problems. Conceptually, converting an applied problem to a Riemann sum (Fig. 1) is the most valuable step. Typically, it is also the most difficult.

Source: Dale Hoffman,
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