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Math 14 Differential Equations Sample Exam Questions

1. Find all solutions of the IVP, describe their domain of validity, and make a reasonably
accurate sketch of the solution(s):

2y 0 + y 3 = 0, y(0) = −1

2. Find and sketch all solutions of the IVP, and describe their domains of validity; sketch
an accurate graph of the solution(s):

(2t2 x − 2x)x0 + 2tx2 + 1 = 0, x(0) = 0.

3. Find the general solution to the ODE x00 − 2x0 + 2x = t.

4. Solve the differential equation x2 dy − (x2 + xy + y 2 )dx = 0.

5. Solve the following initial value problem:

y 00 + 4y 0 + 5y = 0, y(0) = 1, y 0 (0) = 2.

6. Solve the IVP y 0 + y = g(t), t > 0, y(0) = 0 where

 1, 0 ≤ t ≤ 1,
g(t) =
 0, t > 1.

Sketch an accurate graph of the solution, and discuss the long-term behavior of the
solution. Is the solution differentiable on the interval t > 0? Explain your answer.

7. Use the method of Variation of Parameters to find the general solution to the ODE

y 00 − y 0 − 2y = 2e−t

8. Find the general solution to the ODE y 0000 + 5y 00 − 36y = 0.

9. Given that y = ex solves the ODE xy 00 − (2x + 1)y 0 + (x + 1)y = 0 on any interval not
containing the origin, find the general solution of the ODE on such intervals.

10. The ODE y 00 − xy = 0, −∞ < x < ∞ is known as Airy’s equation; it is an important

equation in mathematical physics. It can be shown that solutions to Airy’s equation
cannot be represented analytically in terms of elementary functions. Nonetheless, you
should be able to describe qualitatively what the graphs of solutions to Airy’s equation
look like. Do so.

11. An improvement to Newton’s law of cooling that is accurate over a wider range of
temperatures is Stephan’s Law . This physical law posits that the rate of change of
temperature (T ) is proportional to the difference in fourth powers of the temperature
of the body and of the surroundings (TS ):

= −k(T 4 − TS4 ).
Find a representation of the solution satisfying the initial condition T (0) = T0 .

12. Consider a renewable resource, like fish, which is harvested continuously. When the
resource is abundant a constant harvesting rate can be sustained, as the harvesting
does not significantly affect the rate at which new resource can be obtained. When
the resource becomes scarce a constant harvest rate cannot be sustained, as the rate
depends on the amount of resource left. In analogy with fishing, when the lake is well
stocked, a fisherman can catch fish at a constant rate per unit time. As the number of
fish dwindles, fewer fish are caught per unit time. We can model this effect using the
following equation:
dN N hN
= rN 1 − − ,
dt K 1+N
where N is the population size, r is the intrinsic rate of growth, K is the carrying
capacity in the absence of harvesting, h is the (high population density) harvesting
rate. Assume that K > 1.

Explain how the harvesting term of the equation captures the two different scenarios
described above. Provide a complete phase-portrait analysis of the dynamics of this
system. This analysis requires that you: locate and classify all equilibria for all possible
values of the parameters and describe the fate of the population for all meaningful
initial conditions.

13. A mass weighing 64 pounds is attached to a spring with a Hooke’s Law spring constant
of 50 pounds per foot and brought to rest. Neglecting dissipative forces, find the
displacement of the mass at time t if a force equal to 4 sin 2t drives the system.

14. One simple model for the spread of a disease through a population identifies the pro-
portion of carriers in the population, C(t), and the proportion of susceptibles in the
population, S(t). Carriers are removed from the population at a constant relative rate:
they either die, or recover from the disease and are no longer infectious or susceptible.
C 0 = −βC,
where β > 0 is constant. Susceptibles contract the disease at a rate proportional to
their number, and to the proportion of carriers in the population:

S 0 = −αCS.

where α > 0. Let C0 and S0 denote the proportions of carriers and susceptibles in the
population at time t = 0.
Solve these ODEs for S(t). Assess the impact of the epidemic on the population by
analyzing the long-term behavior of your solution. Under what conditions would the
epidemic have a minimal impact on the population? Under what conditions would the
epidemic devastate the susceptible population? Give a biological interpretation of your

15. Assume that the earth is a solid sphere of uniform density with mass M and radius
R = 3960 (mi). Suppose that a tunnel is drilled through the center of the earth,
connecting the north pole to the south pole. You will use the following fact: For
a particle of mass m within the tunnel at a distance r from the earth’s center, the
gravitational force attracting the particle toward the center is Fr = −GMr m/r2 , where
Mr is the mass of that part of the earth within a sphere of radius r, which is to say,
the mass of that part of the earth closer to the center.
Let a particle of mass m be dropped from rest into the tunnel at the north pole.
By applying Newton’s Law F = ma, deduce the differential equation satisfied by the
distance r(t) of the particle from the center of the earth. Solve your IVP to describe the
motion of this particle. Use your calculator to estimate the time it takes the particle
to reach the south pole; estimate the speed of the particle as it passes through the
center of the earth. (Hint: A useful fact: GM/R3 = g/R, where you should take
g = 32.2 ft/s2 ).

16. Suppose that y1 is a known non-vanishing solution of the differential equation y 00 +

p(t)y 0 + q(t)y = 0, where the coefficient functions are continuous over some suitable
interval I. Show that a second solution y2 satisfies the equation
y2 W [y1 , y2 ]
y1 y12

where W [y1 , y2 ] is the Wronskian of y1 and y2 . Now show that y2 can be taken to be
Z t e−P (s)
y2 (t) = y1 (t) ds
t0 y1 (s)2

where P (s) = ss0 p(τ )dτ and t0 and s0 are arbitrary points of I. (Hint: Recall Abel’s

identity for the Wronskian.)