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Section A.2 The Quadratic Formula

Definition A.1. The Quadratic Formula.

The quadratic formula gives the solution of the second-order polynomial equation

\begin{equation} ax^2 + bx + c = 0\tag{A.2.1} \end{equation}


\begin{equation} x=\frac{1}{2a}\left\{-b\pm\sqrt{b^2-4ac}\right\}\tag{A.2.2} \end{equation}

The proof of the quadratic formula involves completing the square, see Section A.1. Starting from

\begin{equation} ax^2 + bx + c = 0\tag{A.2.3} \end{equation}

we immediately have

\begin{equation} a \left(x+\frac{b}{2a}\right)^2 - \frac{b^2}{4a} + c = 0\tag{A.2.4} \end{equation}

so that

\begin{align} \left(x+\frac{b}{2a}\right)^2 \amp = \frac{b^2}{4a^2} - \frac{c}{a}\tag{A.2.5}\\ \amp = \frac{b^2-4ac}{4a^2} .\tag{A.2.6} \end{align}

Taking the square root of both sides and rearranging terms yields the quadratic formula in its standard form (A.2.2).

Definition A.2. Degeneracy.

An \(n\)th-order polynomial always has \(n\) (complex) roots, but these roots may be repeated. In physics contexts, we call the physical quantity represented by the repeated root degenerate, see the contexts of matrix eigenvalues Section 4.2 and solutions of ODEs Section 9.7. A root that is repeated \(m\) times is called \(m\)-fold degenerate.