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Re: Why doesn't this work?

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg20360] Re: [mg20352] Why doesn't this work?
  • From: David Withoff <withoff at>
  • Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 02:45:36 -0400
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

> I'm trying to understand why a temporary is needed in the following
> case.  I've got a function of one parameter and two constants.  I
> define the constants on the fly with "/.".  I want to find a root of
> this equation.  When I use "/." in FindRoot, it doesn't work, but if I
> create another function that has these as true constants (rather than
> symbols), FindRoot works.  I don't understand why these two cases are
> different.
> Here's my function (a difference of gaussians):
> Dog[t_] := (t/tau1)^6 * Exp[-6 * (t/tau1 - 1)] - (t/tau2)^6 * Exp[-6 *
> (t/tau2 - 1)]
> Here's my first attempt to find a root, and the result:
> FindRoot[(Dog[t]==0) /. { tau1->13.7, tau2->24.8}, {t, 20}]
> FindRoot::frnum: Function {False} is not a length 1 list of numbers at
> {t} = {20.}.
> Here, I define a temporary function, and a FindRoot which should come
> out to the exact same thing as above -- but this one works:
> Dog2[t_] = Dog[t] /. { tau1->13.7, tau2->24.8}
> FindRoot[Dog2[t]==0, {t,20}]
> {t->18.1648}
> Why is this?  I've looked at it every way I can think of, thrown in
> extra parens for grouping, checked that Dog2[t]==0 is exactly the same
> as (Dog[t]==0) /. { tau1->13.7, tau2->24.8}, etc., but I can't figure
> it out.  Any clues?
> Thanks,
> -- Joe
> ,------------------------------------------------------------------.
> |    Joseph J. Strout           Biocomputing -- The Salk Institute |
> |    joe at                 |
> `------------------------------------------------------------------'
> Check out the Mac Web Directory!

The first argument in FindRoot is expected to be an equation (an
expression of the form lhs==rhs): 

In[1]:= ?FindRoot
FindRoot[lhs==rhs, {x, x0}] searches for a numerical solution to the equation
   lhs==rhs, starting with x=x0.

The expression

    (Dog[t]==0) /. { tau1->13.7, tau2->24.8}

is not an equation.  It contains an equation, and if it is evaluated
in a particular way (before FindRoot assigns a numerical value to t)
it will evaluate to an equation, but that's not quite good enough.

In most cases the best solution is to follow the documentation and
enter something that is actually an equation, as in your second example.

Another possibility is to force the evaluation to be done in a way
that leads to an equation, such as

In[2]:= Dog[t_] := (t/tau1)^6 Exp[-6 (t/tau1 - 1)] -
                    (t/tau2)^6 Exp[-6 (t/tau2 - 1)]

In[3]:= FindRoot[Evaluate[(Dog[t]==0) /. { tau1->13.7, tau2->24.8}], {t, 20}]

Out[3]= {t -> 18.1648}


In[4]:= With[{eq = (Dog[t]==0) /. { tau1->13.7, tau2->24.8}},
                   FindRoot[eq, {t, 20}]]

Out[4]= {t -> 18.1648}

Dave Withoff
Wolfram Research

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