A differential equation is an equation that involves derivatives, or differentials. We previously look the differential equation of population growth.

$\frac{dP}{dt} = kP$

or

$P^\prime(t) = k \cdot P(t)$

where $$P$$, or $$P(t)$$ is the population at time $$t$$. This equation is a model of uninhibited population growth. Its solution is the function

$P(t) = P_0e^{kt}$

where the constant $$P_0$$ is the size of the population at $$t=0$$. In general, differential equations have far reaching applications and have solutions that are functions.

## Solving (Certain) Differential Equations

We use the notation $$y^\prime$$ to denote a derivative. Thus, if $$y = f(x)$$, then

$y^\prime = \frac{dy}{dx} = f^\prime(x)$

We can find the solutions to some differential equations by finding their antiderivatives (or indefinite integrals). The differential equation

$\frac{dy}{dx} = g(x)$ or

$y^\prime = g(x)$ has the solution

$y = \int g(x) dx$

As an example then, let’s solve

$y^\prime = 2x$

from sympy import *
from sympy.abc import x

yprime = 2 * x
integrate(yprime, x)
## x**2

Note! I don’t know how to return the constant of integration but the complete answer (accorind to any textbook) should be

$y = \int 2x dx = x^2 + C$

Technically, $$2x$$ is the general solution to the differential equations. Taking specific values of $$C$$ gives particular solutions.

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np

xvals = np.arange(-5, 5, 0.001)
y0 = [x**2 for x in xvals]
y1 = [x**2 + 3 for x in xvals]
y2 = [x**2 - 3 for x in xvals]

plt.plot(xvals, y0, label="C = 0")
plt.plot(xvals, y1, label="C = 3")
plt.plot(xvals, y2, label="C = -3")
plt.legend(frameon=False) Let’s solve

$f^\prime(x) = e^x + 5x - x^{1/2}$ given that $$f(0) = 8$$.

from sympy.abc import C
from mpmath import e

yprime = e**x + 5*x - x**(1/2)
f = integrate(yprime, x)
f
## 1.0*2.71828182845905**x + 5*x**2/2 - 0.666666666666667*x**1.5
constant = solve(Eq(8, f.subs(x, 0) + C), C)
constant
## [7.00000000000000]

This means that the particular solution is

f + constant
## 1.0*2.71828182845905**x + 5*x**2/2 - 0.666666666666667*x**1.5 + 7.0

## Separation of Variables

There are some differential equations where you might have to use a technique called separation of variables. Let’s take an example from the literature.

In psychology, one model of stimulus-response asserts that the rate of change $$dR/dS$$ of the reaction $$R$$ with respect to a stimulus $$S$$ is inversely proportional to the intensity of the stimulus. That is,

$\frac{dR}{dS} = \frac{k}{S}$ where $$k$$ is some positive constant.

To solve this equation, we first separate the variables and then we integrate both sides to find the solution.

$dR = k \cdot \frac{dS}{S}$ $\int dR = \int k \cdot \frac{dS}{S}$ $R = k \ln S + C$ Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to do this in sympy so I’m leaving it like this.