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Use of the logarithm

RPO THK-basic

Addition and subtraction

In elementary school we learned how to add numbers: 2 + 3 = 5.
But we also learned how to answer the question: what must be added to 2 in order to get 5?
Or: 2 + ? = 5.
The answer is found by means of subtraction: ? = 5 - 2 = 3.
We could as well have asked: ? + 3 = 5.
Subtraction gives also the answer to that question: ? = 5 - 3 = 2.

Subtraction is called the inverse of addition.

Multiplication and division

In elementary school we learned how to multiply numbers: 2 × 3 = 6.
And we learned to answer the question: what must be multiplied by 2 in order to get 6?
Or: 2 × ? = 6.
In this case the answer is found by division: ? = 6 / 2 = 3.
We could as well have asked: ? × 3 = 6.
Again, the answer is obtained by division: ? = 6 / 3 = 2.

Division is called the inverse multiplication.

Power, root and logarithm

We probably learned about the power function in high school: 23 = 2 × 2 × 2 = 8.
What must be raised to the power 3 in order to get 8? Or: ? 3 = 8.
The answer is the root function: ? = 3√ 8 = 2.
But the root function doesn't give the answer to the question: to what power must  2  be raised in order to get 8? Or: 2 ? = 8.
To answer this question we need the logarithm: ? = 2log(8) = 3.

Therefore, there are two different inverses of the power function: root and logarithm.

Logarithm

The use of the logarithm is best illustrated by a simple example:     23 × 25 = 28

Per definition we have:

    3 = 2log(23)     5 = 2log(25)     8 = 2log(28) = 2log(23 × 25)

Note that 8 = 3 + 5, and therefore:

    2log(23 × 25) = 2log(23) + 2log(25)

The general relation is clog(a × b) = clog(a) + clog(b). Thus the logarithm of the product equals the sum of the logarithms of the two factors.

The logarithm makes it possible to multiply with the aid of a ruler.

This property is applied when plotting data on paper with a logarithmic grid.

Last modified:07 February 2019 1.54 p.m.
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