2.3 Logarithmic Functions and Models

(This topic is also in Section 2.3 in Applied Calculus and Section 10.3 in Finite Mathematics and Applied Calculus)

For best viewing, adjust the window width to at least the length of the line below.

Goodies: On-line Technology

Function Evaluator & Grapher Excel Grapher Java Grapher


More on Logarithms

Using and Deriving Algebraic Properties of Logarithms

Brush up on your Algebra For all of the tutorials on nonlinear functions and models, you should be familiar with the algebra of exponents and radicals.

Logarithms were invented by John Napier (1550-1617) in the late 16th century as a means of aiding calculation. Although computers and calculators have done away with that use of logarithms, many other uses remain. In particular, the logarithm is used to to model real world phenomena in numerous fields, including physics, finance, and economics.

Base b Logarithm

The base b logarithm of x, logbx, is the power to which we need to raise the positive number b in order to get x.

For instance, the power to which we need to raise 2 in order to get 8 is 3. Therefore,

    log28 = 3         because 23 = 8

Filling-In-The-Box-Method of Computing Logarithms
To compute logbx, write down the equation

    b = x
and then fill in the box with the correct value. That is the desired logarithm.
    1.   To compute log39, write 3 = 9 and fill in the box.
    3 2  = 9
    Therefore, log39 = 2.
    2.   To compute log2

    , write 2 =

    and fill in the box.
    2- =

    Therefore, log2

    = -3.
    3.   To compute log101000, write 10 = 1000 and fill in the box.
    log101000 =      
    4.   More for you to practice with.
    log41 =      
    log164 =      


In Short Writing a logarithmic equation is just a funny way of writing an exponential equation:
    Logarithmic form Exponential form Technology Form
    logbx = y   means  by = x log(x,b) = y
    log525 = 2 52 = 25 log(25,5) = 2
    log232 = 5    
    40.5 = 2    
    Use technology form

Using Technology

To compute logbx using technology, use the following formulas (see "Change-of-Base Formula" below for an explanation of the first one):

    TI-83: log(x)/log(b) Example: log2(16) is log(16)/log(2)
    Excel: =LOG(x,b) or =log(x,b)     Example: log2(16) is =LOG(16,2)

Common Logarithm, Natural Logarithm

    log10x is usually written as log x Common Logarithm I-83 & Excel Formula: log(x)
    logex is usually written as ln x Natural Logarithm I-83 & Excel Formula: ln(x)

The next practice question is similar to Example 2 in Section 2.3 of Applied Calculus and Section 10.3 in Finite Mathematics and Applied Calculus.

Let f(x) = log2x. Fill in the missing values in the following table, and then click on the correct graph.




1 2 4 16
f(x) = log2x -3

2 4


The (correct) graph above is an example of a logarithmic function. See te textbook for a discussion of general logarithmic functions and logarithmic regression.

One thing that makes logarithms useful for solving equations is their properties:

Logarithmic Identities

The following identities hold for all positive bases a &ne 1 and b &ne 1, all positive numbers x and y, and every real number r. How they are derived is discussed in the on-line discussion "Using and Deriving Algebraic Properties of Logarithms."

Identity Examples
1. logb(xy) = logbx + logby log216 = log28 + log22
2. logb(x/y) = logbx - logby ln(5/3) = ln 5 - ln 3
3. logb(xr) = r logbx log2(65) = 5 log26
4. logbb = 1;     logb1 = 0 log33 = 1;     log31 = 0
5. logbx =
log x

log b
ln x

ln b
log26 =
log 6

log 2
ln 6

ln 2
"Change of Base Formula"

Q Multiple Choice: ln(1/2) =

Q Multiple Choice: log(18) =

Q Multiple Choice: log(0.125) =

Q Multiple Choice: ln[3(1.01-2t)] =

Solving Equations with Unknowns in the Exponent

Logarithms are very useful in solving equatinos where the unknown is in the exponent. First go through the sample question and both methods of solution, and then try the others on your own:

Q Sample Question: Solve the equation 52x = 1/125

Some for you to do:

Relationship with Exponential Functions

The following identities show that the operations of taking the base b logarithm and raising b to a power are "inverse" to each other:

Identity Examples
1. logb(bx) = x log2(27) = 7
All this says is that The power to which you raise b in order to get bx is x (!)
2. blogbx = x 5log58 = 8
All this says is that raising b to the power to which it must be raised to get x, yields x (!)

Exponential Growth & Decay and Half-life

At the end of the previous tutorial we saw that exponential growth can be represented by the equation A = Pert, where A, P, and r are constants. Here we generalize this idea (and also change the letters used to represent the constants):

Exponential Growth & Decay

An exponential growth function has the form

Q(t) = Q0ekt
Q0 represents the value of Q at time t = 0, and k is the growth constant.

Similarly, an exponential decay function has the form

Q(t) = Q0e-kt
Q0 represents the value of Q at time t = 0, and k is the decay constant.

Of interest here are the following questions:

It turns out that the answers to these questions are independent of the size of the sample: small samples undergoing exponential decay have the same half-life as large samples of the same material, and the same is true for doubling time in the case of exponential growth.

Doubling Time and Half-Life

For a quantity undergoing exponential growth Q(t) = Q0ekt,the growth constant k and doubling time td for Q are related by

    td k = ln 2.

For a quantity undergoing exponential decay Q(t) = Q0e-kt,the decay constant k and half-life th for Q are related by

    th k = ln 2.
Notice that the formulas are exactly the same for both growth and decay. Thus, in both exponential growth and decay,
    ln 2

    ,      and      k=
    ln 2

Sample Questions:

Q Carbon-14 has the following decay function: Q(t) = Q0e-0.000 120 968t. Its half-life is therefore

    th= years.    

Q If the quantity of a substance doubles every 10 years, then its growth constant is given by
    k= Accurate to 4 decimal places    

You now have several options

Top of Page

Last Updated: April, 2007
Copyright © 2007 Stefan Waner