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Logarithms Tutorial to explain the nature of logarithms and their use in our courses. What is a Logarithm? • The common or base-10 logarithm of a number is the power to which 10 must be raised to give the number. • Since 100 = 102, the logarithm of 100 is equal to 2. This is written as: Log(100) = 2. • 1,000,000 = 106 (one million), and Log (1,000,000) = 6. Logs of small numbers • 0.0001 = 10-4, and Log(0.0001) = -4. All numbers less than one have negative logarithms. • As the numbers get smaller and smaller, their logs approach negative infinity. • The logarithm is not defined for negative numbers. Numbers not exact powers of 10 • Logarithms are defined for all positive numbers. • Since Log (100) = 2 and Log (1000) = 3, then it follows that the logarithm of 500 must be between 2 and 3. • In fact, Log(500) = 2.699 Small Numbers not exact powers of 10 • Log(0.001) = -3 and Log (0.0001) = - 4 • What would be the logarithm of 0.0007? Since it is between the two numbers above, its logarithm should be between -3 and -4. • In fact, Log (0.0007) = -3.155 Why Logarithms? • In scientific applications it is common to compare numbers of greatly varying magnitude. Direct comparison of these numbers can be difficult. Comparison by order of magnitude using logs is much more effective. • Time scales can vary from fractions of a second to billions of years. • You might want to compare masses that vary from the mass of an electron to that of a star. • The following table presents an example: Years before present (YBP) Formation of Earth 4.6 x 109 YBP Dinosaur extinction 6.5 x 107 YBP First hominids 2 x 106 YBP 4 Last great ice age 1 x 10 YBP First irrigation of crops 6 x 103 YBP Declaration of Independence 2 x 102 YBP Establishment of UWB 1 x 10 YBP Data plotted with linear scale 5.E+09 4.E+09 3.E+09 2.E+09 All except the first two data points are hidden on the axis. 1.E+09 D W B U in os au rs H om in id s Ic e Ag e Irr ig at In io de n pe nd en ce 0.E+00 Ea rt h Years before present Events from Table I Use Logs of Ages • Because the data spans such a large range, the display of it with a linear axis is useless. It makes all events more recent than the dinosaurs to appear the same! • Instead, plot the logarithm of the tabular data. Now the range to be plotted will be much smaller, and the plot will distinguish between the ages of the various events. Log (YBP) EVENT YBP Log(YBP) Formation of Earth 4.6 x 10 9 9.663 Dinosaur extinction 6.5 x 107 7.813 First hominids 2 x 106 6.301 Last great ice age 1 x 104 4.000 First irrigation of crops 6 x 103 3.778 Declaration of Independence 2 x 102 2.301 Establishment of UWB 1.000 1 x 10 Plot using Logs Events from Table I Log(YBP) 10 8 All data are well represented despite their wide range. 6 4 2 0 th r Ea D e rs ds g i u A a in s e o Ic om in H n ce it o n e a d g i n e Irr ep d In U B W Your calculator should have a button marked LOG. Make sure you can use it to generate this table. N N as power of 10 Log (N) 1000 3 10 3.000 200 102.301 2.301 1.875 75 10 1.875 10 101 1.000 5 0.699 10 0.699 Also make sure you can use it to generate this table. N 1 N as power of 10 Log (N) 0 0 -1 -1 10 0.1 10 0.062 10-1.208 0.001 -3 10 0.00004 10-4.398 -1.208 -3 -4.398 Antilogs? • The operation that is the logical reverse of taking a logarithm is called taking the antilogarithm of a number. The antilog of a number is the result obtained when you raise 10 to that number. • The antilog of 2 is 100 because 102=100. • The antilog of -4 is 0.0001 because 10-4 = 0.0001 Find the antilog function on your calculator. • To take antilogs, your calculator should have one of the following: • A button marked LOG-1 • A button marked 10x • A button marked ALOG • A two-button sequence such as INV followed by LOG. Make sure you can use your calculator to generate this table. N As a power of 10 Antilog(N) 3 3 10 1000 1.5 101.5 31.62 1 1 10 10 0 100 1 -2 -3.4 10 -2 0.01 10 -3.4 0.0003981 Also make sure you can use it to generate this table. N 1 N as power of 10 Log (N) 0 0 -1 -1 10 0.1 10 0.062 10-1.208 0.001 -3 10 0.00004 10-4.398 -1.208 -3 -4.398 Natural Logarithms Some calculators (especially business models) may have only natural logarithms. These can be used to obtain common (base10) logarithms and antilogs. See the tutorial on Natural Logs if this the case for you. This is the End ... Return to Math Tutorial Page Return to Prof. Jackels’ Home Page