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Re: Problems with Solve

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  • Subject: [mg132465] Re: Problems with Solve
  • From: Murray Eisenberg <murray at>
  • Date: Sun, 23 Mar 2014 04:59:38 -0400 (EDT)
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For first problem: Yes, indeed, it's the inherent limitation of finite 
precision that's giving this non-real "fuzz" when you take N of the 
exact solutions. Two cures are as follows:

        solns = Solve[z + 5 (z^2 - 1) + 1 z^3 == 1, z];
        Chop @ N[solns]
    (* {{z->0.925423},{z->-4.47735},{z->-1.44807}} *)

        NSolve[z + 5 (z^2 - 1) + 1 z^3 == 1, z]
    (* {{z->-4.47735},{z->-1.44807},{z->0.925423}} *)

For second problem: What are x, y, and z? What equation are you trying 
to solve for s?

On Mar 22, 2014, at 12:06 AM, Samuel Mark Young <sy81 at> wrote:

> Hello everyone,
> I'm trying to use the solutions of Solve from solving a cubic equation - however, it keeps returning complex answers when there are real solutions. For example:
> Solve[z + 5 (z^2 - 1) + 1 z^3 == 1, z]
> This equation has 3 real solutions. However, the answers returned when I ask mathematica for a decimal answer are complex (which I need to do later on when an integration needs solving numerically):
> {{z -> 0.925423 + 0. I}, {z -> -4.47735 +
>    2.22045*10^-16 I}, {z -> -1.44807 - 4.44089*10^-16 I}}
> I'm guessing this is to do with the finite precision that is used in the calculations as the imaginary components are very small, but am unsure how to deal with them and they shouldn't be there. Any suggestions?
> The second problem I am having is that I need to solve for s in a function B[s] == 10^-5, where B is some (complicated) function of s.
> The form of the function depends on s - and this is handled by If[] commands in the function B. For example, the s dependance might be:
> B[s]:=If[s<0.5,Erfc[-x],Erfc[-x]+Erfc[y]-Erfc[z]]
> B[s] is a smooth function of s.
> The problem seems to arise because, before it has found a solution for s, it can't decide which form of the function to use - and so just returns an error message (I've tried using Solve, NSolve, and FindRoot with different methods). However, since I'm only looking for a numerical solution it is easily possible to solve this manually using trial and improvement - which seems to be something that Mathematica should be able to do? But I can't figure out how.
> Please feel free to contact me directly at sy81 at with advice. Thank you in advance for any help!
> Regards,
> Sam

Murray Eisenberg                                murray at
Mathematics & Statistics Dept.      
Lederle Graduate Research Tower      phone 240 246-7240 (H)
University of Massachusetts               
710 North Pleasant Street                
Amherst, MA 01003-9305

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