Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Exponential decay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A quantity undergoing exponential decay. Larger decay constants make the quantity vanish much more rapidly. This plot shows decay for decay constants of 25, 5, 1, 1/5, and 1/25 for x from 0 to 4.

A quantity is said to be subject to exponential decay if it decreases at a rate proportional to its value. Symbolically, this can be expressed as the following differential equation, where N is the quantity and λ is a positive number called the decay constant.

\frac{dN}{dt} = -\lambda N.

The solution to this equation (see below for derivation) is:

N(t) = N_0 e^{-\lambda t}. \,

Here N(t) is the quantity at time t, and N0 = N(0) is the initial quantity, i.e. the quantity at time t = 0.

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