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The Fourier transform of a function *f*(*x*)
is defined as

and the inverse Fourier transform (IFT) as

This documentation refers to this formulation as the Fourier
transform of *f* with respect to *x* as
a function of *w*. Or, more concisely, the Fourier
transform of *f* with respect to *x* at *w*.
Mathematicians often use the notation *F*[*f*]
to indicate the Fourier transform of *f*. In this
setting, the transform is taken with respect to the independent variable
of *f* (if *f* = *f*(*t*),
then *t* is the independent variable; *f* = *f*(*x*)
implies that *x* is the independent variable, etc.)
at the default variable *w*. This documentation refers
to *F*[*f*] as the Fourier transform
of *f* at *w* and *F*^{–1}[*f*]
is the IFT of *f* at *x*. See `fourier` and `ifourier` in
the reference pages for tables that show the Symbolic Math Toolbox™ commands
equivalent to various mathematical representations of the Fourier
and inverse Fourier transforms.

For example, consider the Fourier transform of the Cauchy density
function, (*π*(1 + *x*^{2}))^{–1}:

syms x cauchy = 1/(pi*(1+x^2)); fcauchy = fourier(cauchy)

fcauchy = (pi*exp(-w)*heaviside(w) + pi*heaviside(-w)*exp(w))/pi

fcauchy = expand(fcauchy)

fcauchy = exp(-w)*heaviside(w) + heaviside(-w)*exp(w)

ezplot(fcauchy)

The Fourier transform is symmetric, since the original Cauchy density function is symmetric.

To recover the Cauchy density function from the Fourier transform,
call `ifourier`:

finvfcauchy = ifourier(fcauchy)

finvfcauchy = -(1/(x*i - 1) - 1/(x*i + 1))/(2*pi)

simplify(finvfcauchy)

ans = 1/(pi*(x^2 + 1))

An application of the Fourier transform is the solution of ordinary and partial differential equations over the real line. Consider the deformation of an infinitely long beam resting on an elastic foundation with a shock applied to it at a point. A "real world" analogy to this phenomenon is a set of railroad tracks atop a road bed.

The shock could be induced by a pneumatic hammer blow.

The differential equation idealizing this physical setting is

Here, E represents elasticity of the beam (railroad track),
I is the "beam constant," and *k* is the spring (road
bed) stiffness. The shock force on the right side of the differential
equation is modeled by the Dirac Delta function δ(*x*).
The Dirac Delta function has the following important property:

A definition of the Dirac Delta function is

where

Let *Y*(*w*) = *F*[*y*(*x*)](*w*)
and Δ(*w*) = *F*[*δ*(*x*)](*w*).
Indeed, try the command `fourier(dirac(x), x, w)`.
The Fourier transform turns differentiation into exponentiation, and,
in particular,

To see a demonstration of this property, try this

syms w y(x) fourier(diff(y(x), x, 4), x, w)

which returns

ans = w^4*fourier(y(x), x, w)

Note that you can call the `fourier` command
with one, two, or three inputs (see the reference pages for `fourier`).
With a single input argument, `fourier(f)` returns
a function of the default variable `w`. If the input
argument is a function of `w`, `fourier(f)` returns
a function of `t`. All inputs to `fourier` must
be symbolic objects.

Applying the Fourier transform to the differential equation above yields the algebraic equation

or

*Y*(*w*) = Δ(*w*)*G*(*w*),

where

for some function *g*(*x*).
That is, *g* is the inverse Fourier transform of *G*:

*g*(*x*) = *F*^{–1}[*G*(*w*)](*x*)

The Symbolic Math Toolbox counterpart to the IFT is `ifourier`.
This behavior of `ifourier` parallels `fourier` with
one, two, or three input arguments (see the reference pages for `ifourier`).

Continuing with the solution of the differential equation, observe that the ratio

is a relatively "large" number since the road bed has a high
stiffness constant *k* and a railroad track has a
low elasticity *E* and beam constant *I*.
Make the simplifying assumption that

This is done to ease the computation of *F *^{–1}[*G*(*w*)](*x*).
Now type

G = 1/(w^4 + 1024); g = ifourier(G, w, x); g = simplify(g); pretty(g)

and see

/ / / pi \ / pi | sqrt(2) exp(-4 x) | sin| -- + 4 x | heaviside(x) - cos| -- \ \ \ 4 / \ 4 \ \ \ + 4 x | exp(8 x) (heaviside(x) - 1) | |/512 / / /

Notice that `g` contains the Heaviside distribution

Since *Y* is the product of Fourier transforms, *y* is
the convolution of the transformed functions. That is, *F*[*y*]
= *Y*(*w*) = Δ(*w*) *G*(*w*)
= *F*[δ] *F*[*g*]
implies

by the special property of the Dirac Delta function. To plot
this function, substitute the domain of *x* into *y*(*x*),
using the `subs` command. The resulting graph shows
that the impact of a blow on a beam is highly localized; the greatest
deflection occurs at the point of impact and falls off sharply from
there.

XX = -3:0.05:3; YY = double(subs(g, x, XX)); plot(XX, YY) title('Beam Deflection for a Point Shock') xlabel('x'); ylabel('y(x)');

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