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# Inverse Functions

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## Inverse Functions

Table 1 gives data from an experiment in which a bacteria culture started with 100 bacteria in a limited nutrient

medium; the size of the bacteria population was recorded at hourly intervals.

The number of bacteria N is

a function of the time t: N = f(t).

Suppose, however, that the biologist changes her point of view and becomes interested in the time required for the population to reach various levels. In other words, she is thinking of t as a function of N.

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## Inverse Functions

This function is called the inverse function of f, denoted by f–1, and read “f inverse.” Thus t = f–1(N) is the time required for the population level to reach N.

The values of f–1 can be found by reading Table 1 from right to left or by consulting Table 2.

For instance, f–1(550) = 6 because f(6) = 550.

Not all functions possess

inverses. t as a function of N

Table 2

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## Inverse Functions

Let’s compare the functions f and g whose arrow diagrams are shown in Figure 1.

Note that f never takes on

the same value twice (any two

inputs in A have different outputs), whereas g does take on the same value twice (both 2 and 3 have

the same output, 4).

In symbols,

g(2) = g(3)

but f(x ) ≠ f(x ) whenever x ≠ x f is one-to-one; g is not.

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## Inverse Functions

If a horizontal line intersects the graph of f in more than one point, then we see from Figure 2 that there are numbers x1 and x2 such that f(x1) = f(x2).

This means that f is not one-to-one.

Therefore we have the following geometric method for determining whether a function is one-to-one.

This function is not one-to-one because f(x1) = f(x2).

Figure 2

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## Example 1

Is the function f(x) = x3 one-to-one?

Solution 1:

If x1 ≠ x2, then x13 ≠ x23 (two different numbers can’t have the same cube).

Therefore, by Definition 1, f(x) = x3 is one-to-one.

Solution 2:

From Figure 3 we see that no horizontal line intersects the

graph of f(x) = x3 more than once.

Therefore, by the Horizontal

Line Test, f is one-to-one. f(x) = x3is one-to-one.

Figure 3

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## Inverse Functions

One-to-one functions are important because they are precisely the functions that possess inverse functions according to the following definition.

This definition says that if f maps x into y, then f–1 maps y back into x. (If f were not one-to-one, then f–1 would not be uniquely defined.)

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## Inverse Functions

The arrow diagram in Figure 5 indicates that f–1 reverses the effect of f.

Note that

Figure 5

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## Inverse Functions

For example, the inverse function of f(x) = x3 is f–1(x) = x1/3 because if y = x3, then

f–1(y) = f–1(x3) = (x3)1/3 = x Caution

Do not mistake the –1 in f–1 for an exponent. Thus f–1(x) does not mean

The reciprocal 1/f(x) could, however, be written as [f(x)]–1.

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## Example 3

If f(1) = 5, f(3) = 7, and f(8) = –10, find f–1(7), f–1(5), and f–1(–10).

Solution:

From the definition of f–1 we have

f–1(7) = 3 because f(3) = 7 f–1(5) = 1 because f(1) = 5 f–1(–10) = 8 because f(8) = –10

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## Example 3 – Solution

The diagram in Figure 6 makes it clear how f–1 reverses the effect of f in this case.

cont’d

The inverse function reverses inputs and outputs.

Figure 6

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## Inverse Functions

The letter x is traditionally used as the independent variable, so when we concentrate on f–1 rather than on f, we usually reverse the roles of x and y in Definition 2 and write

By substituting for y in Definition 2 and substituting for x in (3), we get the following cancellation equations:

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## Inverse Functions

The first cancellation equation says that if we start with x, apply f, and then apply f–1, we arrive back at x, where we started (see the machine diagram in Figure 7).

Thus f–1 undoes what f does.

The second equation says that f undoes what f–1 does.

Figure 7

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## Inverse Functions

For example, if f(x) = x3, then f–1(x) = x1/3 and so the cancellation equations become

f–1(f(x)) = (x3)1/3 = x f(f–1(x)) = (x1/3)3 = x

These equations simply say that the cube function and the cube root function cancel each other when applied in

succession.

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## Inverse Functions

Now let’s see how to compute inverse functions.

If we have a function y = f(x) and are able to solve this equation for x in terms of y, then according to Definition 2 we must have x = f–1(y).

If we want to call the independent variable x, we then interchange x and y and arrive at the equation y = f–1(x).

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## Inverse Functions

The principle of interchanging x and y to find the inverse

function also gives us the method for obtaining the graph of f–1 from the graph of f.

Since f(a) = b if and only if f–1(b) = a, the point (a, b) is on the graph of f if and only if the point (b, a) is on the graph of f–1.

But we get the point (b, a)

from (a, b) by reflecting about the line y = x. (See Figure 8.)

Figure 8

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## Inverse Functions

Therefore, as illustrated by Figure 9:

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## The Calculus of Inverse Functions

Now let’s look at inverse functions from the point of view of calculus.

Suppose that f is both one-to-one and continuous. We think of a continuous function as one whose graph has no break in it. (It consists of just one piece.)

Since the graph of f–1 is obtained from the graph of f by reflecting about the line y = x, the graph of f –1 has no break in it either (see Figure 9).

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## The Calculus of Inverse Functions

Thus we might expect that f–1 is also a continuous function.

This geometrical argument does not prove the following theorem but at least it makes the theorem plausible.

Now suppose that f is a one-to-one differentiable function.

Geometrically we can think of a differentiable function as one whose graph has no corner or kink in it.

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## The Calculus of Inverse Functions

We get the graph of f–1 by reflecting the graph of f about the line y = x, so the graph of f–1 has no corner or kink in it either.

We therefore expect that f–1 is also differentiable (except

where its tangents are vertical).

In fact, we can predict the

value of the derivative of f–1 at a given point by a geometric argument.

In Figure 11 the graphs of f and its Figure 11

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## The Calculus of Inverse Functions

If f(b) = a, then f–1(a) = b and (f–1)′(a) is the slope of the tangent line L to the graph of f–1 at (a, b), which is

∆y/∆x.

Reflecting in the line y = x has the effect of interchanging the x- and y-coordinates. So the slope of the reflected line

[the tangent to the graph of f at (b, a)] is ∆x/∆y.

Thus the slope of L is the reciprocal of the slope of , that is,

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## Example 6

Although the function y = x2, is not one-to-one and therefore does not have an inverse function, we can turn it into a one-to-one function by restricting its domain.

For instance, the function f(x) = x2, 0 ≤ x ≤ 2, is one-to-one (by the Horizontal Line Test) and has domain [0, 2] and

range [0, 4]. (See Figure 12.) Thus f has an inverse function f–1 with domain [0, 4] and range [0, 2].

Figure 12

(a) y = x2, (b) f (x) = x2, 0 ≤ x ≤ 2

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## Example 6

Without computing a formula for (f–1)′ we can still calculate (f–1)′(1). Since f(1) = 1, we have f –1(1) = 1. Also f–1(x) = 2x.

So by Theorem 7 we have

In this case it is easy to find f–1 explicitly. In fact, f–1(x) =

0 ≤ x ≤ 4. [In general, we could use the method given by (5).]

Then which agrees with the preceding computation.

cont’d

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## Example 6

The functions f and f–1 are graphed in Figure 13.

cont’d

Figure 13

However, there exist functions of bounded variation that are not continuously differentiable.... However, there exist bounded functions that are not of

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