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## Curl and Divergence

In this section we are going to introduce a couple of new concepts, the curl and the divergence of a vector.

Let’s start with the curl.  Given the vector field  the curl is defined to be,

There is another (potentially) easier definition of the curl of a vector field.  We use it we will first need to define the  operator.  This is defined to be,

We use this as if it’s a function in the following manner.
So, whatever function is listed after the  is substituted into the partial derivatives.  Note as well that when we look at it in this light we simply get the gradient vector.

Using the  we can define the curl as the following cross product,

We have a couple of nice facts that use the curl of a vector field.

Facts
 1.      If  has continuous second order partial derivatives then .  This is easy enough to check by plugging into the definition of the derivative so we’ll leave it to you to check. 2.      If  is a conservative vector field then .  This is a direct result of what it means to be a conservative vector field and the previous fact. 3.      If  is defined on all of  whose components have continuous first order partial derivative and  then  is a conservative vector field.  This is not so easy to verify and so we won’t try.

 Example 1  Determine if  is a conservative vector field. Solution So all that we need to do is compute the curl and see if we get the zero vector or not.                                     So, the curl isn’t the zero vector and so this vector field is not conservative.