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Whats the difference between Fourier transformations and Fourier Series? As I've been working with Fourier Series in my maths lectures yet a friend of mine also doing engineering has been working with Fourier Transformations. Are they the same where a transformation is just used when its applied and not used in pure mathematics?

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Fourier series is an discrete analogue of Fourier transformation –  M. Strochyk Oct 25 '12 at 21:22
    
@Dean Here is something that I found extremely useful for Fourier transforms. Link –  drN Oct 25 '12 at 22:36
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

The Fourier series is used to represent a periodic function by a discrete sum of complex exponentials, while the Fourier transform is then used to represent a general, nonperiodic function by a continuous superposition or integral of complex exponentials. The Fourier transform can be viewed as the limit of the Fourier series of a function with the period approaches to infinity, so the limits of integration change from one period to $(-\infty,\infty)$.

In a classical approach it would not be possible to use the Fourier transform for a periodic function which cannot be in $\mathbb{L}_1(-\infty,\infty)$. The use of generalized functions, however, frees us of that restriction and makes it possible to look at the Fourier transform of a periodic function. It can be shown that the Fourier series coefficients of a periodic function are sampled values of the Fourier transform of one period of the function.

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+1. Thanks for pointing out the relations between FS and FT! In the last sentence, "the Fourier transform of one period of the function." Do you mean the function is truncated to be zero outside one period and still defined over $(-\infty, \infty)$, and then the FT applies to the truncated function over $(-\infty, \infty)$? –  Tim Jan 1 '13 at 16:10
    
@Tim you are right. –  chaohuang Jan 1 '13 at 17:20
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Fourier transform and Fourier series are two manifestations of a similar idea, namely, to write general functions as "superpositions" (whether integrals or sums) of some special class of functions. Exponentials $x\rightarrow e^{itx}$ (or, equivalently, expressing the same thing in sines and cosines via Euler's identity $e^{iy}=\cos y+i\sin y$) have the virtue that they are eigenfunctions for differentiation, that is, differentiation just multiplies them: ${d\over dx}e^{itx}=it\cdot e^{itx}$. This makes exponentials very convenient for solving differential equations, for example.

A periodic function provably can be expressed as a "discrete" superposition of exponentials, that is, a sum. A non-periodic, but decaying, function does not admit an expression as discrete superposition of exponentials, but only a continuous superposition, namely, the integral that shows up in Fourier inversion for Fourier transforms.

In both case, there are several technical points that must be addressed, somewhat different in the two situations, but the issues are very similar in spirit.

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+1! Thanks! This reply confirms my recent understanding. "A periodic function provably can be expressed as a "discrete" superposition of exponentials," should "A periodic function" be "A periodic function which is $L^1$ in a single period" instead? –  Tim Jan 1 '13 at 16:03
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@Tim... Oh, yes, certainly, "locally $L^1$" is necessary for the relevant integrals to be literal. But, also, suitable "generalized functions" (distributions) have similar expressions, convergent in a suitable topology. –  paul garrett Jan 1 '13 at 17:44
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A fourier series is an expansion of a signal in to its cosine and sine components whereas a fourier transform, transforms a signal from the time domain in to the frequency domain.

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Both of your descriptions hold for both the fourier series and fourier transform –  Eric O. Korman Oct 25 '12 at 22:32
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Fourier transform is basically used for transforming periodic and non periodic signals into from time domain to frequency domain. It can also transform fourier series into frequency domain as fourier series is nothing but a simplified form of time domain PERIODIC function and nothing else .

FOURIER SERIES ------------ 1. Periodic function ----------- converts into a DISCRETE exponential or sin cos function. 2. non Periodic function ----------- NOT APPLICABLE

FOURIER TRANSFORM ---------- 1. Periodic function ----------- converts its fourier series in frequency domain. 2. non Periodic function ----------- converts it into CONTINUOUS frequency domain.

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What's with the weird formatting? –  Daniel Rust Aug 16 '13 at 22:59
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Fourier transform is continuous and Fourier series is discrete.

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I think that you should try to capture the sense of discreteness better, as it is kinda essential here :-) –  Jyrki Lahtonen Jul 7 '13 at 15:42
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