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A Look At Logarithmsindex : base : exponential : series : transcendental : equations 

The number 3 is called the base; the number 2 is the index (plural indices). 3^{2} is read as three squared and means multiply 3 by itself twice. In other words
Other examples:
a^{m} × a^{n} = a^{(m + n)}  (When two numbers are multiplied, their indices are added) 
a^{m} / a^{n} = a^{(m  n)}  (When two numbers are divided, their indices are subtracted) 
^{n}√a^{m} = a^{m / n}  (For the nth root divide the index by n) 
(a^{m})^{n} = a^{m × n}  (Raising a number to the nth power, multiply the index by n) 
Here are some examples of these laws:
Note that indices make calculations simpler. These indices can be used to define Logarithms.
We can say that
3 is the logarithm of 8 to base 2 (because 2^{3} = 8)
and
4 is the logarithm of 81 to base 3 (because 3^{4} = 81).
These are written:
Logarithms turned out to be one of the most important aids to computation before the arrival of computers and calculators. Tables of logarithms were produced to aid computation. These tables continued to be used in schools until the mid 20th Century.
Indices can be applied to any base. The tables of logarithms most useful in computations use a base of 10. These are called Common Logarithms. Any base could be used in theory. Base 10 simplifies the work involved in calculations because our number system is base 10. We can apply the laws of indices as before to base 10.
The logarithm of 1000 to base 10 is 3 (remember 10^{3} = 1000). This is written:
Because base 10 is so important, it is assumed if no base is indicated. The above can also be written simply as
Note that the indices 3 and 4 (above) tell us how many zeros the numbers 1,000 and 10,000 contain.
Here is a list of some whole number base 10 logarithms.
Number  Equivalent  Logarithm 

10,000,000  
1,000,000  
100,000  
10,000  
1,000  
100  
10  
1 
Note that the logarithm of 1 is 0. This is because 10^{0} = 1. This makes sense. When you multiply a number by 1 you do not change its value. Correspondingly, if you add 0 to the index you leave it unchanged.
There is more on indices in my Binomial Theorem essay.
There is more (much more) to logarithms than the whole number values discussed so far. A number like 63 will have as its logarithm a number between 1 and 2. In fact, 63 can be written as
so
This number is actually transcendental and its decimal part goes on for ever. Tables of logarithms will usually list these numbers to four decimal places (or seven in better quality tables). Calculators may work out logarithms to nine or more decimal places. Using logarithms simplifies calculations but the answers will never be 100% exact except in the rare cases of whole number logarithms. But then you should not need logarithms to multiply or divide by 100, should you?
Let us see how logarithms can be used in calculations. Imagine that we wish to multipy two numbers, say, 63 and 41.
By using tables of logarithms the two numbers can be written as
The multiplication can then be done by adding the indices:
By using a reverse logarithm table (called an antilogarithm) this can be reduced to 2582.85. The actual answer is 2583 so we have done a multiplication to four places of accuracy by looking up some figures in a table and adding them. In the days when calculations of planetary orbits could take years this would have been a major advance.
Remember that logarithms are only as accurate as the number of decimal places used. We could have used logarithms of more decimal places to increase the accuracy.
Let us now multiply 630 by 4.1. This can be shown to be equivalent to
Notice that the decimal part of the index is the same as for the 63 × 41 case. The table below shows this:
Number  Equivalent  Logarithm 

63,000,000  
6,300,000  
630,000  
63,000  
6,300  
630  
63  
6.3 
This only works for base 10 logarithms.
Tables of base 10 logarithms only need to give the decimal part of the logarithm for the number 63. The user can add the integer part by knowing where the decimal place is in the original number. Since 63 lies between 10 (10^{1}) and 100 (10^{2}), the logarithm must be between 1 and 2, therefore the integer part must be 1.
We can also use tables for the reverse of this process. In this case we need to find the antilogarithm of a logarithm. For example
Find the number with a logarithm of 2.7993
Only the decimal part of the logarithm is looked up in the tables (.7993). This will give the figures 63. The integer of the logarithm (2) tells us that the value will be between 100 and 1,000.
The antilogarithm of 2.7993 is, therefore, 630.
Let us do a division.
Evaluate 630 / 41
Again, we will use logarithms to four decimal places.
The correct answer is 15.366.
Logarithms also give us an alternative way (to the Binomial Theorem) of calculating roots. Let us find √6300. Again, by using logarithms:
The correct answer is 79.373.
Before moving on let us summarise the laws of logarithms. Remember, logarithms are really indices so the laws are similar to the laws of indices. These laws are the same regardless of the base.
When two numbers are multiplied, their logarithms are added:
When two numbers are divided, their logarithms are subtracted:
For the nth root of a number divide the logarithm by n:
To Raise a number to the nth power, multiply the logarithm by n:
Logarithms to base e can be written as
and more commonly as
This infinite series only gives finite values if x is greater that 1 and less than or equal to 1:
For example, the natural logarithm of 1.3 can be evaluated as follows:
= (0.3)  (0.3)^{2}/2 + (0.3)^{3}/3  ...
= 0.3  0.045 + 0.003  ... = 0.258
Once a natural logarithm has been evaluated, it can be converted to a common logarithm.
Logarithms can be converted to different bases using the formula:
To convert a natural logarithm (log_{e}N) to a common logarithm (log_{10}M) this formula becomes:
In other words, multiply a natural logarithm by 0.4343 to convert it to a common logarithm. Incidently, the two numbers that occur in the above line have the following derivation:
So, if ln(1.3) = 0.258 (from the logarithm series above), the value of log_{10}1.3 can be obtained by:
This implies values like log 13 = 1.1120, log 130 = 2.1120, etc. This is how tables of logarithms were originally calculated.
Example 1: Solve the equation 2^{x} = 10.
This is best done by taking logarithms on both sides, the base does not matter as long as we are consistant. In these examples, we use logarithms to base 10.
2^{x} = 10 becomes Log 2^{x} = Log 10
The left hand side can be rearranged using the laws of logarithms:
Log 2^{x} = Log 10 becomes x × Log 2 = Log 10 which evaluates to x × 0.3010 = 1.
The value of x is 3.322.
We can check this answer by putting the value of x back into the original equation to get
2^{3.322} = 10.000.
Example 2: Solve 3^{x  1} = 5^{2x+3}.
Take Logarithms on both sides: Log 3^{x  1} = Log 5^{2x+3}
This rearranges to (x  1) × Log 3 = (2x + 3) × Log 5
Evaluating the logarithms gives: (x  1) × 0.4771 = (2x + 3) × 0.6990
The rest is just simple algebra (if a bit messy):
0.4771x  0.4771 = 1.398x + 2.097,
therefore x = 2.795 (to three decimals).
This can also be checked by setting x to this value in the original equation.
This gives 3^{3.795} = 5^{2.59} which yields 0.01546 = 0.01547,
which is correct to four decimal places.
Equations may already have a logarithm. For example,
Example 3: Solve the equation: Log (x^{2} + 1) = 1
Since there is already a logarithm on the left hand side we "antilog" both sides. That gets rid of the logarithm on the left and makes the right hand side an index of 10 (see the original definition of a logarithm).
Log (x^{2} + 1) = 1 becomes x^{2} + 1 = 10^{1} which is simply x^{2} + 1 = 10
This is now a standard quadratic equation: x^{2}  9 = 0 with two answers, x = 3 and x = 3.
© 2000, 2009 KryssTal
Logarithm Tables
This interesting Maths SOS site contains a table of logarithms.