For questions about infinitesimals, both in an intuitive sense as well as more rigorous settings (see also [nonstandard-analysis]).

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59
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11answers
9k views

What is $dx$ in integration?

When I was at school and learning integration in maths class at A Level my teacher wrote things like this on the board. $$\int f(x)\, dx$$ When he came to explain the meaning of the $dx$, he told us ...
-4
votes
1answer
365 views

Could we assign a numerical value to an infinitesimal?

The common definition of 'infinitesimal' is that they are quantities that are too small to be measured or perceived. If we base the mathematically definition entirely on the common definition it ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

little-o and its properties

I know that $f(x) = o(g(x))$ for $x \to \infty $ if (and only if) $\lim_{x \to \infty}\frac{f(x)}{g(x)}=0$ Which means than $f(x)$ has a order of growth less than that of $g(x)$. 1) I'm still ...
21
votes
2answers
548 views

Has anybody ever considered “full derivative”?

When differentiating we usually take a limit and drop the infinitesimal terms. But what if not to drop anything? First, we extend the real numbers with an infinitesimal element $\varepsilon$ which ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

Justification of algebraic manipulation of infinitesimals

As an engineering student, I regularly see people making arguments like this: Consider a rectangle of dimensions $x\times 4x$. If we make $x$ bigger by a small quantity $dx$ then this will make $4x$ ...
11
votes
5answers
345 views

Is line element mathematically rigorous?

I know differentials (in a way of standard analysis) are not very rigorous in mathematics, there are a lot of amazing answers here on the topic. But what about line element? $$ds^2 = dx^2 + dy^2 ...
4
votes
2answers
312 views

Nilpotent infinitesimals comparison

I'd like to understand better the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches to nilpotent infinitesimal numbers and their application to differential geometry in the context of physics and ...
86
votes
6answers
6k views

Is non-standard analysis worth learning?

As a former physics major, I did a lot of (seemingly sloppy) calculus using the notion of infinitesimals. Recently I heard that there is a branch of math called non-standard analysis that provides ...
18
votes
1answer
615 views

Which universities teach true infinitesimal calculus?

My colleague and I are currently teaching "true infinitesimal calculus" (TIC), in the sense of calculus with infinitesimals, to a class of about 120 freshmen at our university, based on the book by ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

Are infinitesimals dangerous?

Amir Alexander is a historian of mathematics. His new book is entitled "Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World". See here. Two questions: (1) In what sense are ...
13
votes
8answers
665 views

Is $0$ an Infinitesimal?

For the definition of Infinitesimal, wikipedia says In common speech, an infinitesimal object is an object which is smaller than any feasible measurement, but not zero in size; or, so small ...
4
votes
3answers
215 views

How $\frac{dx}{dy}=f(x)g(y) \Leftrightarrow \int \frac{dx}{f(x)} = \int g(y)dy$?

In my intro differential equations class we have often used the "equivalence" stated in title. It seems to me that somehow, the intermediate step $$ \frac{dx}{f(x)} = g(y)dy$$ is being used, in which ...
14
votes
3answers
711 views

Who gave you the epsilon?

Who gave you the epsilon? is the title of an article by J. Grabiner on Cauchy from the 1980s, and the implied answer is "Cauchy". On the other hand, historian I. Grattan-Guinness points out in his ...
7
votes
6answers
1k views

What does limit actually mean?

I have been in a deep confusion for about a month over the topic of limits! According to our book the limit at $a$ is the value being approached by a function $f(x)$ as $x$ approaches $a$ I have a ...
4
votes
1answer
408 views

infinitesimal calculus

I have been reading some non-standard analysis from Keisler's book and I think it is logically consistent till now but there are criticisms against it and why isn't non-standard analysis accepted more ...
3
votes
1answer
191 views

Why every member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{R}$ is infinitely close to some member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{Q}$

Let $\mathbb{Q}$ be the set of rational numbers. Show that every member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{R}$ is infinitely close to some member of ${}^{*}\mathbb{Q}$. This is an exercise on page 180, A ...
9
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the meaning of infinitesimal?

I have read that an infinitesimal is very small, it is unthinkably small but I am not quite comfortable with with its applications. My first question is that is an infinitesimal a stationary value? It ...
1
vote
5answers
288 views

What is the name of $0.\overline{0}1$

Short question: What is the name of the number closest but not equal to zero? Long question: Some programmers were discussing about the smallest number close to zero, which is ...
4
votes
0answers
92 views

Defining “Penon Infinitesimals”.

In this lecture (which is accompanied by these slides), right near the end (so page 9 in the pdf of the slides; I don't think you have to watch the lecture), P. Johnstone refers to the "Penon ...
2
votes
5answers
462 views

Is there a scientific name for 0.infinity?

First of all I want to say that when coming to math - I know absolutely nothing - so please forgive me if my question is not "scientifically" correct, if it is not "syntax-correct" - or even too ...
0
votes
0answers
33 views

Are Gaussians a basis for the vector space of continuous functions?

How can I prove (or disprove) that the Gaussian function family: $f_{\mu,\sigma}(x)=e^{-\frac{(x - \mu)^2}{2 \sigma^2}}$ Are a basis for $C(\mathbb{R})$ ?
0
votes
1answer
85 views

Multivariable functions limits and paths

In order to approach a point as (0,0) there many directions to do so. A whole 360 degrees actually. So between [0,360) degrees there are actually infinite directions. My question is why does it ...