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Engineering Mathematics 120 Engineering Mathematics 120
C K Tan C K Tan
Lecture 5
*Limits and Asymptotes *
Overview Overview
calculate limits of functions to better
understand their behaviour.
determine asymptotes of functions,
to better visualize graphs of
functions.
Math 120 Lecture 5
Motivation Motivation
The limiting behaviour of many
engineering functions is crucial to
know how they arise and are
implemented in practice.
You need to be aware of this when
working with functions in an
engineering context.
Math 120 Lecture 5
e.g. The Charging and discharging of e.g. The Charging and discharging of
a capacitor in electrical system a capacitor in electrical system
Where Q = charge, R = resistance, C =
capacitance, t = time.
Initially, Q = 0 at t = 0.
Finally, t = , Q = Q
o
Math 120 Lecture 5
Key Concept in this lecture Key Concept in this lecture
Limits help us to analyze
function behaviour.
Asymptotic behaviour of
functions.
Continuity of functions.
Math 120 Lecture 5
Contents Contents
Various types of function limits
and how to calculate them,
Vertical and horizontal
asymptotes of functions.
Continuous and discontinuous
functions.
Math 120 Lecture 5
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Outcomes Outcomes
determine elementary limits of
functions and use these to help
sketch their graphs.
recognize discontinuities of functions
and their type.
continue looking at the idea of limits
as we meet new functions over the
next few weeks.
Math 120 Lecture 5
Limit of a function Limit of a function
Consider the function
f(x) = x
2
+ 1.
As x approaches the value 1
(in maths notation, we write
x 1
The value of f(x) approaches
1
2
+ 1 = 2, i.e. f(x) 2
Math 120 Lecture 5
function
As x 1 (but x doesnt
get to exactly 1),
g(x) 1
2
+ 1 = 2,
though g(1) = 0 2,
Math 120 Lecture 5
In both of these cases, we say that the limit of the function
as x approaches 1 is the value 2
notation.
More generally, we say that the limit of a function f(x) as x
approaches a is L, if the value of f(x) tends to L as x tends to a.
In formal notation, this is written as
Math 120 Lecture 5
Caution:
the value of the limit does not
necessarily equal the function value at
the point x = a.
the existence of the limit does not even
depend on whether f is defined at a or
not, so long as the values of f tend to L
when x tends to a.
Math 120 Lecture 5
In many cases (not all), the limit of a
function at a point is found simply by
substitution.
Math 120 Lecture 5
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If it leads to an expression of the form 0/0 (we call this
an indeterminate form), we may need to first cancel a
common factor in the numerator and denominator.
Note how the 0/0 did not end up being equal to 1,
like one might have expected. The extra work was
necessary to determine the true value of the limit.
Math 120 Lecture 5
Limits involving Limits involving
We first consider the behaviour of the hyperbolic function f(x) = 1/x
for large and small values of x.
At x = 0, the function is, of course, not defined. Near x = 0, the
magnitude of 1/x becomes very large, as we can see from the
following calculations. Taking a sequence of small positive x values,
we have
Clearly, as x 0
+
(i.e. x goes to zero from above), 1/x + . We
write this as
<----- Eq (1)
Math 120 Lecture 5
Similarly, taking a sequence of small negative x values, we have
Clearly as x 0
-
(i.e. as x goes to zero from below), 1/x - . We
write this as
<---- Eq (2)
(It is correct to say that the limit doesnt exist in both Eq 1 and Eq 2
since the functions increases and decreases without bound).
Math 120 Lecture 5
In this instance, we say that the hyperbolic function has a vertical asymptote
x = 0, i.e. the graph of the function approaches the shape of this vertical line
as x 0.
Let us now consider the behaviour for values of x large in magnitude. For a
sequence of large positive values, we get
Clearly, as x +, 1/x 0
+
, i.e. lim 1/x = 0.
For a sequence of large negative values, we get
Math 120 Lecture 5
Clearly, as x -, 1/x 0
-
,
i.e. lim 1/x = 0.
In this context, we say that f(x)
has a horizontal asymptote
y = 0. Because the graph of the
function approaches the
horizontal line y = 0. Putting
together our observations of the
hyperbolic function, we can sketch
its graph as follows.
Math 120 Lecture 5
Limit of a function Limit of a function
When x a, f(x) L,
We say that lim f(x) = L. (L uniquely
defined) xa
E.g.
We say approaches the limit of 2
when x approaches infinity.
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A snakes head or tail approaching an A snakes head or tail approaching an
electric fence (watch out!!) electric fence (watch out!!)
y = 2
A snake tries to cross an electric A snake tries to cross an electric
fence unsuccessfully. fence unsuccessfully.
Math 120 Lecture 5
In general,
means that the value of f(x) tends to L as x approaches .
Note that for many functions, such a limit does not exist.
In particular, polynomial functions do not have limits as x

Ex:
Note that a rational function is a function of the form
Both f and g are polynomials (i.e. its simply a ratio of two
polynomials.)
Math 120 Lecture 5
Vertical Asymptotes Vertical Asymptotes
Arise for any rational function near points
where the denominator is equal zero (and
the numerator is some constant value
zero)
For y = 1/(3-x), vertical asymptote is x = 3.
For y = 1 / [ (x-1) (x 3) ], vertical
asymptotes are: x = 1 and x = 3.
[These are like electric fences where
snakes cant cross!]
Math 120 Lecture 5
Horizontal Asymptotes Horizontal Asymptotes
If they exist, they can be found by taking
the limit of the function as the variable
goes to . For rational functions, the
basic step to remember is to divide the
numerator and denominator by the
highest power of x in the denominator.
For y = (2x-1)/x = 2 1/x,
horizontal asymptote: y = 2.
Math 120 Lecture 5
Example: Example:
We have
Which shows that the
function has a horizontal
asymptote y = 1.
Notice: vertical
asymptotes are x= 2 and
x = -2
Math 120 Lecture 5
Curves for the
function
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A learner tracks down a snake by A learner tracks down a snake by
identifying: identifying:
the zone(s) where the snake is allowed
to wander,
the forbidden zones that cannot be
crossed by the snake,
the positions for its ends (called head
and tail for convenience),
possible crossings on the x-axis and y-
axis by the snake,
and any other twists and turns of its
body that will lead to a clear trace of
its body.
Example Example
Find the following limits if they exist Find the following limits if they exist
Solution:
Math 120 Lecture 5
Example Example
Find the following limits if they exist Find the following limits if they exist
Solution:
Math 120 Lecture 5
Example Example
Find the following limits if they exist Find the following limits if they exist
Solution:
Math 120 Lecture 5
Note the following: Note the following:

f(x) approaches as x goes to infinity.


Limit of f(x) does not exist!
limit of a rational function
as x or as x - ,
The limit does not exist if the highest power of x in
the numerator is larger than in the denominator.
The limit will be nonzero constant if the powers are
the same
The limit will be zero if the highest power of x in the
numerator is smaller than in the denominator
Math 120 Lecture 5
Continuity Continuity
The notion of continuous functions is
very important in calculus. The laymens
definition of continuity is this: a function is
continuous if we can draw the graph of it on
a peace of paper without lifting the pen off
the paper. A function like the one below is
clearly not continuous on [1, 6]
(although one can say that it is continuous
on the individual intervals (1,4) and (4,6)
respectively)
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A finite jump in function values like this is considered to be a finite
discontinuity.
Vertical asymptotes in the graph of a function are considered to be
infinite discontinuities. Its important to recognize these when they
occur as extra care is needed to integrate across them.
Math 120 Lecture 5
Definition of a continuous function Definition of a continuous function
A function y = f(x) is continuous over
its domain
if f(x) is defined for every x in the domain , in the domain , in the domain , in the domain ,
If If If If lim lim lim limf(x) exists for any value of a in the f(x) exists for any value of a in the f(x) exists for any value of a in the f(x) exists for any value of a in the
x a domain, and domain, and domain, and domain, and
If If If If lim lim lim limf(x) = f(a) f(x) = f(a) f(x) = f(a) f(x) = f(a)
xa xa xa xa
A snake satisfies these conditions so it
could represent a continuous curve.
Slanting/Oblique Asymtote Slanting/Oblique Asymtote
Neither vertical nor horizontal. E.g. what
happens to y when x approaches ?
Check behaviour of y (x 1) when x
approaches .
Calculate
Math 120 Lecture 5
Catch the snake(s) given by Catch the snake(s) given by
1. Find limits:
2. i.e. (i) y =g(x) is undefined when x = 3,
(ii) and
3. Electric Fences (asymptotes) :
Vertical x = 3 and slanting y = x 1
4. Locate heads and tails.
5. Locate body of snake(s). (0, -4/3), (4, 4)
The snakes of The snakes of
x
y
3
0
(0,-8)
y = x - 1
(0,-4/3)
(4,4)
x= 3
Snake of the form Snake of the form
Both Head and tail approaches y = 0 from
above.
Electric Fence: y = 0
As f(x) is undefined at x=0.5 and x = 1,
Electric Fences: x = 0.5, x = 1.
Behaviour of snake near x = 1:
Behaviour of snake near x = 0.5:
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There are 3 snakes here! There are 3 snakes here!
x
y
1 0.5 0
Snake 1
Snake 2
Snake 3
Turning
point of the
snakes
body!
x
Summary Summary
Various types of function limits and
how to calculate them,
Vertical and horizontal asymptotes
of functions.
Continuous and discontinuous
functions.
You have taken your first
lesson as a novice snake
catcher!
Math 120 Lecture 5
End of lecture 5
Math 120 Lecture 5