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, The folium of Descartes is an algebraic curve carved out by a certain equation. By

which equation? This equation, x cubed plus y cubed minus 3axy equals 0. It's the

points on the plane that satisfy this equation.

So, what's a folium? Well, folium is just a Latin word for leaf, you know, the sorts

of things that grow on trees. So, where's the leaf? Well, here's the leaf. I've

plotted the points on the plane that satisfy x cubed plus y cubed minus 9xy

equals 0. And this is the curve that I get, and you can see it looks kind of like

a leaf. This is not the graph of a function, it's really a relation. x cubed

plus y cubed minus 9xy is a polynomial in two variables, in both x and y, in both. I

can't solve for x in terms of y. Look, this graph fails the vertical line test.

For a given value of x, there's potentially multiple values of y which

will satisfy this equation. So, what's the point of all these? Well, once upon a

time, Descartes challenged Fermat to find the tangent line to this folium. And

Descartes couldn't do it but Fermat could. And now, so can you. And you can do it

with implicit differentiation. So, let's use implicit differentiation on this,

thinking of y secretly as a function of x. So, the derivative of x cubed is 3x

squared. The derivative of y cubed, well, that's 3y squared times dy dx, that's

really the Chain rule in action, minus, now it's got to differentiate this. It

will be 9 times the derivative x, which is 1y minus 9x times the derivative of y,

which is dy dx, and that's equal to 0. Alright, now I can rearrange this, the

things with the dy dx, and the things without the dy dx, and you gather it

together. So, 3x squared minus 9y plus, and the things with the dy dx term, 3y

squared minus 9x dy dx equals 0. Now, I'm going to subtract this from both sides.

So, I'll have 3y squared minus 9x times dy dx equals minus 3x squared plus 9y. And

I'm going to divide both sides by this, so I'll have dy dx equals minus 3x squared

plus 9y over 3y squared minus 9x. And note that we're calculating dy dx but the

answer involves both x and y. And you can see, it's really working. I can pick a

point on this curve like a point 4, 2 satisfies this equation. Then, I can ask

what's the slope of the tangent line to the curve through the point 4, 2? When I

go back to our calculation of the derivative and if I plug in 4 for x and 2

for y, I get that the derivative is 4/5. And indeed, I mean, this graph is somewhat

stretched, but, you know, yeah, I mean that doesn't look terribly unreasonable

for the slope of this line. Problems like this one, which once stumped the smartest

people on earth can now be answered by you, by me, by lots and lots of people.

Calculus is part of a human tradition of making not just impossible things

possible, but things that were once really hard much easier.

Well, in any case, there's plenty more questions that you can just ask about

different kinds of curves besides this folium of Descartes. You can write down

some polynomial with x's and y's, like y squared minus x cubed minus 3x squared

equals = 0 and then you can ask about the points, the x comma y's that satisfy this

equation. And if you want to know the slope of the

tangent line, use implicit differentiation. The trick is just to use

the Chain rule and to treat y as a function of x.