Suppose that a curve is given as the graph of a function, y = f(x). We have that the slope in the point (a, f(a)) is equal to its derivative in a
and the equation of the tangent line can be stated as follows
With this in mind we can write a snippet of code which visualize the tangent of a curve:
from numpy import sin,linspace,power from pylab import plot,show def f(x): # sample function return x*sin(power(x,2)) # evaluation of the function x = linspace(-2,4,150) y = f(x) a = 1.4 h = 0.1 fprime = (f(a+h)-f(a))/h # derivative tan = f(a)+fprime*(x-a) # tangent # plot of the function and the tangent plot(x,y,'b',a,f(a),'om',x,tan,'--r') show()The result is as follows:
The f is plotted with a blue curve and the tangent is the dashed line. Looking at the graph it is actually easy to observe that the tangent gives us a way to visualize the slope of a curve in a point. Let's see how this can help us in a practical example. Consider the fresh potatoes consumer price index between the years 1949 and 2006:
from numpy import arange # Fresh potatoes: Annual Consumer price index, 1949-2006 # obatined at https://explore.data.gov/Agriculture/U-S-Potato-Statistics/cgk7-6ccj price_index = [21.0,17.6,19.3,28.9,21.1,20.5,22.1,26.4,22.3,24.4,24.6,28.0,24.7,24.9,25.7,31.6,39.1,31.3,31.3,32.1,34.4,38.0,36.7,39.6,58.8,71.8,57.7,62.6,63.8,66.3,63.6,81.0,109.5,92.7,91.3,116.0,101.5,96.1,116.0,119.1,153.5,162.6,144.6,141.5,154.6,174.3,174.7,180.6,174.1,185.2,193.1,196.3,202.3,238.6,228.1,231.1,247.7,273.1] t = np.arange(1949,2007)From the calculus we have that the derivative is positive when f is increasing, it is negative when f is decreasing and zero when f has a saddle point. So, if we look at the tangent of the curve of the consumer price index in a certain year we have that it has a positive slope when the price index is increasing, a negative slope when the price are decreasing and it is constant when the trend is going to change. Using an interpolation of the data we loaded above we can plot the tangent in each year we want:
from scipy import interpolate def draw_tangent(x,y,a): # interpolate the data with a spline spl = interpolate.splrep(x,y) small_t = arange(a-5,a+5) fa = interpolate.splev(a,spl,der=0) # f(a) fprime = interpolate.splev(a,spl,der=1) # f'(a) tan = fa+fprime*(small_t-a) # tangent plot(a,fa,'om',small_t,tan,'--r') draw_tangent(t,price_index,1991) draw_tangent(t,price_index,1998) plot(t,price_index,alpha=0.5) show()
The graph shows the data contained in the array price_index and shows the tangent of the curve for the years 1991 and 1998. Using the tangent, this graph gives an emphasis about the fact that the price index is decreasing during the years around 1991 and increasing around 1998.
Find out more about derivative approximation in the post Finite differences with Toeplitz matrix.