A powerful symmetry formula for definite integrals calculation

Let $f(x)$ be an even function, integrable in $\left [ 0,\alpha \right ]$ and $g(x)$ another function such that $g(-x)=\frac{1}{g(x)}$, $g(x)\neq0$, $g(x)\neq-1$ in $\left [ -\alpha,\alpha \right ]$.

It can be proved that:

$$\int_{-\alpha }^{\alpha }\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx=\int_{0}^{\alpha}f(x)dx (1)$$

It turns out to be an interesting formula in the sense that it allows to simplify and speed up some integrals calculations.

Let’s see some examples.

1. Let $f(x)=x^2$ and $g(x)=e^x$. In this case (1) becomes $$\int_{-1}^{1}\frac{x^2}{1+e^x}dx=\int_{0}^{1}x^2dx=\left [ \frac{1}{3}x^3 \right ]_{0}^{1}=\frac{1}{3}$$

Fig.1 – Example 1: red area is equivalent to blue area (both are $1/3$)

2. Let now $f(x)=x^2+cosx$ and $g(x)=e^{xcosx}$. We have$$\int_{-\frac{\pi}{2}}^{\frac{\pi}{2}}\frac{x^2+cosx}{1+e^{xcosx}}dx=\int_{0}^{\pi/2}(x^2+cosx)dx=\left [ \frac{1}{3}x^3 +sinx\right ]_{0}^{\pi/2}=\frac{\pi}{24}+1$$

Fig. 2 – Example 2: red area is equivalent to blue area (both are $\pi/24 + 1$)

3. Finally, let $f(x)=x^2$ and $g(x)=(1+x^2)^x$. Formula (1) becomes$$\int_{-1}^{1}\frac{x^2}{1+(1+x^2)^{x}}dx=\int_{0}^{1}x^2dx=\left [ \frac{1}{3}x^3\right ]_{0}^{1}=\frac{1}{3}$$

Fig.2 – Example 3: red area is equivalent to blue area (both are $1/3$)


It’s a straightforward calculation.

$$\int_{-\alpha }^{\alpha }\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx=\int_{-\alpha }^{0}\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx+\int_{0}^{\alpha }\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx=$$

$$=\int_{-\alpha }^{0}\frac{f(x)\frac{1}{g(x)}}{1+\frac{1}{g(x)}}dx+\int_{0}^{\alpha}\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx=\int_{-\alpha }^{0}\frac{f(x)(\frac{1}{g(x)}+1-1)}{1+\frac{1}{g(x)}}dx+\int_{0}^{\alpha}\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx=$$

$$=\int_{-\alpha }^{0}\left [f(x)-\frac{f(x)}{1+\frac{1}{g(x)}} \right ]dx+\int_{0}^{\alpha}\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx=\int_{-\alpha }^{0}f(x)dx-\int_{-\alpha }^{0}\frac{f(x)}{1+\frac{1}{g(x)}}dx+\int_{0}^{\alpha}\frac{f(x)}{1+g(x)}dx=$$

applying the variable change $t=-x$ ($dt=-dx$) in the second integral and using the fact that $f(x)$ is even in the first integral,


and the formula is proven.

Why Reflexivity cannot be deduced by Symmetry and Transitivity?

The short answer is: quantifiers matter, they’re very important.

The question was asked me by students who were starting studying equivalence relations. They wondered: why refelxivity is needed? Can’t it be deduced by Symmetry and Transitivity?

Let’s recall the definition of equivalence relation.

Given two sets $A$ e $B$, a relation is any subset of the cartesian product $A\times B$. A relation can also be defined between elements of one set $A$: in this case the relation is a subset of the cartesian product $A\times A$ ($A^{2}$).

A relation $R$ in $A\times A$ is said to be an equivalence if it is Reflexive, Symmetric e Transitive.

Reflexivity (M): $\forall x\in A, (x,x)\in R$

Symmetry (S): $(x,y)\in R \Rightarrow (y,x)\in R$

Transitivity (T): $(x,y)\in R \wedge (y,z)\in R\Rightarrow (x,z)\in R$

The reasoning made by students was like the following: S $\Rightarrow (x,y)\in R\Rightarrow (y,x)\in R$, hence, through T, $(x,x)\in R$, which looks like reflexivity M.

Looks like… The keypoint is that neither S nor T guarentee that all the elements of A are linked through R to at least one element of A: universal quantifier “for all” ($\forall$) is missed. Universal quantifier which is instead included inside reflexivity M.

In other words, reflexivity M – exactly thanks to the universal quantifier “for all” ($\forall$) – is the only property among the three which guarentees no element of A is left outside the relation R; what S and T cannot do.

It’s useful to recall that an equivalence relation on a set A naturally builds some subsets – the so called equivalence classes – which are a partition of A. So, using the definition of partition, no element of A can be excluded by the partition, that is, all elements of A must stay in one of the partition subsets.

Now, an example. The relation defined as follows:

$R:\left \{(m,n)\in \mathbb{Z}^{2} : mn>0\right \}$

is obviously symmetric and transitive; moreover almost all the elements of $\mathbb{Z}$ are linked to themselves through $R$. By the way the relation is not reflexive since $0\in\mathbb{Z}$ is not linked to itself through $R$ (indeed it’s not linked to any other element of $\mathbb{Z}$).

Should you have any comments, doubts or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section. Thank you. See you soon.


In this brief article, we’ll see how to find the equivalent resistance of the following net:

Let’s call REQ the equivalent resistance we’re requested to evaluate.

If we cut the net as indicated by the dotted arrow in the picture below, we can observe that the equivalent resistance of the part of the net on the right of the dotted line is again REQ

So, we can write:


$R_{EQ}=aR+\frac{bR\cdot R_{EQ}}{bR+{R_{EQ}}}$,

$(bR+R_{EQ})R_{EQ}=aR(bR+R_{EQ})+bRR_{EQ}$ (*)

Going on with some algebra and solving the quadratic equation, we have:

$R_{EQ}=\frac{aR}{2}(1+\sqrt{1+\frac{4b}{a}})$ (1)

Let’s have now a glance to few special cases.

  1. $a=0$. In this case, all the $aR$ resistances are short circuits, that means that the overall resistance will be zero. Indeed, if we put $a=0$ in (*) we get $R_{EQ}=0$.
  2. $b=0$. In this case, all the $bR$ resistances will be 0, therefore all the resistors on the right of the first $bR$ will be shorted. Hence, the overall equivalent resistance will be only $aR$. Indeed, if we put $b=0$ in (1), we get $R_{EQ}=aR$.
  3. Finally, let’s consider the case $a=b\neq0$. If we substitute in (1), we quickly have:

$R_{EQ}=\frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}R \cong 1.618R$ (2)

Many of you should have noticed the “golden number” ($\frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}$) in (2). It seems it’s hidden everywhere…

Let’s see another way to get the same result as (2), which should provide another reason why the “golden number” is appearing in the equivalent resistance expression.

Let’s build the equivalent resistance step by step. Let’s recall we’re now considering the net made by all equale resistors ($R$)

In the first step, let’s calculate the equivalent resistance as if the net was made of the first 2 resistors only. It is:


In the second step, let’s add one couple of resistors (one series and one parallel). We have:


In the third step, let’s add one more couple of resistors (one series and one parallel). We have:


Going on few steps, we’ll get the following sequence:

$\left \{R_{EQ,n}\right \}=\left \{ \frac{2}{1}R, \frac{5}{3}R, \frac{13}{8}R, \frac{34}{21}R, … \right \}$

This should remind us the Fibonacci’s sequence:

$f_{n}=\left \{ 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,… \right \}$

In fact, we have

$\left \{R_{EQ,n}\right \}=\left \{ \frac{f_{2n+1}}{f_{2n}}R \right \}$ (3)

Now, since the sequence (3) is a sub-sequence of $\left \{ \frac{f_{n+1}}{f_{n}}R \right \}$ (i.e. the sequence of ratios of 2 adjacent Fibonacci’s sequence terms) whose limit is the golden number, we have:


which is the same result as (2).

Kinematics and dynamics of a falling body: a traditional problem

Problem statement

A 60kg man dives in a pool from a 10m trampoline.

Assuming he starts being still and neglecting his upwards jump, find his velocity when he reaches the water.

Find the average force the water exerts on him, if he​​ stops at 5m under water.


In the picture, a​​ reference system​​ has been chosen and the​​ origin​​ (O) has been fixed at the water level. Since the motion happens along one direction only (vertical direction), we need to use only one vertical axis, the traditional ‘y’ axis, on which the upward arrow has been chosen as the positive orientation of the axis: this means that all vectors directed upwards will be positive while all vectors directed downwards will be negative.

Let’s assume, since there’s no mention in the problem statement, that there’s​​ no air friction. This hypothesis, used in all basic physics courses, will significantly simplify the problem solution.

Motion can be divided in 2 parts:

  • Motion in the air

  • Motion in the water

So, we’ll divide the problem solution in 2 parts accordingly.



First of all, let’s try to understand​​ which forces act on the diving man. Since we assumed no friction in the air,​​ the only force acting on the man is the gravity, that is, the man’s weight (fig. 2).

Weight is approximately constant if the man is close enough to the Earth surface, so Newton’s law assures the acceleration will be constant: g


Therefore, the man will experience a​​ uniformly accelerated motion, with an acceleration


Since this​​ motion is in one dimension (y) – for simplicity of notation – we’ll avoid the vector notation (y^) unless necessary.


The time law is:




That is:


Setting​​ y=0​​ (water level), we can get the time at which the man will touch the water:



t= 2hg


In a constant acceleration motion, the speed-acceleration relationship is:


Where​​ v0=0.​​ So, from (1):

v=at=gt= g2hg= 2hg2g=

=​​ 2gh=14ms



The average force exerted by the water on the man is - by definition - a​​ constant force​​ having the same effect of the​​ real water force, that is stopping the man at 5m under the water.

So, we’ll find the constant force which stops the man at 5m under water

Fig. 3

Again, let’s try to understand​​ which forces act on the man in the water. He undergoes 2 forces (fig. 3): his​​ weight​​ W​​ and the water constant force​​ F, which can be written (in vectorial notation) as follows



The Newton’s dynamics law can be written as:


and, since both the weight and the water force are constant, the man acceleration in the water will be constant too.

So we have a​​ constant deceleration motion, with starting velocity


Again, motion is in one dimension (y) so, we’ll avoid the vector notation (y^) unless necessary.

So, space and velocity laws are:

s=s0+v0t+12at2v= v0+at

Where​​ s0=0,​​ v0=-14ms​​ (directed downwards), acceleration a is​​ unknown but it’s directed upwards since the man stops.

We need to solve previous equations for​​ v=0​​ (the man stops) and​​ s=p=-5m.​​ So, we need to solve


From the second equation we have​​ at=14. Substituting in the first, we get



Substituting​​ t=0.71s in the second equation, we​​ get


directed upwards.

Going back to the Newton’s dynamics law, we have:


mg+F= ma

F= ma -mg

F= ma -mg=ma -g=