- Scientists of all kinds often try to approximate a complicated
phenomenon by adding together a few simple pieces.
- Fourier series
- Bessel functions
- Primary Component Analysis
- Spherical harmonics

**multipole expansion**, is especially suitable for electric fields of common molecules. - A
**monopole**is a point charge. Its electric field falls off as 1/r^2. - A
**dipole**is a pair of opposite charges, separated by a small distance. Its electric field falls off as 1/r^3 at large distances - A
**quadrupole**is a set of 4 charges, 2 positive and 2 negative, arranged in a symmetric cross. Its electric field falls off as 1/r^4 at large distances

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An example of using the Fourier series to approximate a sawtooth wave.

A complicated function -- the sawtooth wave -- which we
want to approximate with simple sinusoidal functions.

The first Fourier term: a single sinusoid.

How well does it fit the complicated function? Not very.

The second Fourier term.

Add together the first and second Fourier sinusoids --
how well do they fit the sawtooth?

The third Fourier term.

Add together the first, second and third Fourier sinusoids --
how well do they fit the sawtooth? Pretty well.

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Copyright © Michael Richmond. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.