Summary: Exponential and Logarithmic Models

Key Equations

Half-life formula If [latex]\text{ }A={A}_{0}{e}^{kt}[/latex], < 0, the half-life is [latex]t=-\frac{\mathrm{ln}\left(2\right)}{k}[/latex].
Carbon-14 dating [latex]t=\frac{\mathrm{ln}\left(\frac{A}{{A}_{0}}\right)}{-0.000121}[/latex].[latex]{A}_{0}[/latex] is the amount of carbon-14 when the plant or animal died

A is the amount of carbon-14 remaining today.

is that age of the fossil.

Doubling time formula If [latex]A={A}_{0}{e}^{kt}[/latex], > 0, the doubling time is [latex]t=\frac{\mathrm{ln}2}{k}[/latex]
Newton’s Law of Cooling [latex]T\left(t\right)=A{e}^{kt}+{T}_{s}[/latex], where [latex]{T}_{s}[/latex] is the ambient temperature, [latex]A=T\left(0\right)-{T}_{s}[/latex], and k is the continuous rate of cooling.

Key Concepts

  • The basic exponential function is [latex]f\left(x\right)=a{b}^{x}[/latex]. If > 1, we have exponential growth; if 0 < < 1, we have exponential decay.
  • We can also write [latex]f\left(x\right)=a{b}^{x}[/latex] in terms of continuous growth as [latex]A={A}_{0}{e}^{kx}[/latex], where [latex]{A}_{0}[/latex] is the starting value. If [latex]{A}_{0}[/latex] is positive, then we have exponential growth when > 0 and exponential decay when < 0.
  • In general, we solve problems involving exponential growth or decay in two steps. First, we set up a model and use the model to find the parameters. Then we use the formula with these parameters to predict growth and decay.
  • We can find the age, t, of an organic artifact by measuring the amount, k, of carbon-14 remaining in the artifact and using the formula [latex]t=\frac{\mathrm{ln}\left(k\right)}{-0.000121}[/latex] to solve for t.
  • Given a substance’s doubling time or half-life, we can find a function that represents its exponential growth or decay.
  • We can use Newton’s Law of Cooling to find how long it will take for a cooling object to reach a desired temperature or to find what temperature an object will be after a given time.
  • We can use logistic growth functions to model real-world situations where the rate of growth changes over time, such as population growth, spread of disease, and spread of rumors.
  • We can use real-world data gathered over time to observe trends. Knowledge of linear, exponential, logarithmic, and logistic graphs help us to develop models that best fit our data.
  • Any exponential function of the form [latex]y=a{b}^{x}[/latex] can be rewritten as an equivalent exponential function of the form [latex]y={A}_{0}{e}^{kx}[/latex] where [latex]k=\mathrm{ln}b[/latex].
  • Exponential regression is used to model situations where growth begins slowly and then accelerates rapidly without bound or where decay begins rapidly and then slows down to get closer and closer to zero.


carrying capacity
in a logistic model, the limiting value of the output
doubling time
the time it takes for a quantity to double
the length of time it takes for a substance to exponentially decay to half of its original quantity
logistic growth model
a function of the form [latex]f\left(x\right)=\frac{c}{1+a{e}^{-bx}}[/latex] where [latex]\frac{c}{1+a}[/latex] is the initial value, c is the carrying capacity, or limiting value, and b is a constant determined by the rate of growth
Newton’s Law of Cooling
the scientific formula for temperature as a function of time as an object’s temperature is equalized with the ambient temperature
order of magnitude
the power of ten when a number is expressed in scientific notation with one non-zero digit to the left of the decimal