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Harmonic function

A harmonic function is a twice continuously differentiable function f : U -> R (where U is an open subset of Rn) which satisfies Laplace's equation, i.e.

\frac{\partial^2f}{\partial x_1^2} + \frac{\partial^2f}{\partial x_2^2} + \dots + \frac{\partial^2f}{\partial x_n^2} = 0 </math>

everywhere on U. This is also often written as

<math>\nabla^2 f = 0</math> or <math>\Delta f = 0</math>

Examples of harmonic functions are the constant, linear and affine functions on all of Rn, the function f(x1, x2) = ln(x12 + x22) on R2 \ {0}, the function f(x1, x2) = exp(x1)sin(x2), and the function f(x1,...,xn) = (x12 + ... + xn2)-n on Rn \ {0} if n ≥ 3.

The set of harmonic functions on a given open set U can be seen as the kernel of the Laplace operator Δ and is therefore a vector space over R: sums, differences and scalar multiples of harmonic functions are again harmonic.

If f is a harmonic function on U, then all partial derivatives of f are also harmonic functions on U.

In several ways, the harmonic functions are real analogues to holomorphic functions. All harmonic functions are analytic, i.e. they can be locally expressed as power series. The real and imaginary part of any holomorphic function yields a harmonic function on R2. The harmonic functions satisfy the following maximum principle: if K is any compact subset of U, then f, restricted to K, attains its maximum and minimum on the boundary of K; there are no local maxima or minima, except if f is constant. If f is a harmonic function defined on all of Rn which is bounded above or bounded below, then f is constant (compare Liouville's theorem). If B(x,r) is a ball with center x and radius r which is completely contained in U, then the value f(x) of the harmonic function f at the center of the ball is given by the average value of f on the surface of the ball; this average value is also equal to the average value of f in the interior of the ball.

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