# Inverse Functions: Logarithms and Complex Numbers (Part 30)

Ordinarily, there are no great difficulties with logarithms as we’ve seen with the inverse trigonometric functions. That’s because the graph of $y = a^x$ satisfies the horizontal line test for any $0 < a < 1$ or $a > 1$. For example, $e^x = 5 \Longrightarrow x = \ln 5$,

and we don’t have to worry about “other” solutions.

However, this goes out the window if we consider logarithms with complex numbers. Recall that the trigonometric form of a complex number $z = a+bi$ is $z = r(\cos \theta + i \sin \theta) = r e^{i \theta}$

where $r = |z| = \sqrt{a^2 + b^2}$ and $\tan \theta = b/a$, with $\theta$ in the appropriate quadrant. This is analogous to converting from rectangular coordinates to polar coordinates.

Over the past few posts, we developed the following theorem for computing $e^z$ in the case that $z$ is a complex number.

Definition. Let $z = r e^{i \theta}$ be a complex number so that $-\pi < \theta \le \theta$. Then we define $\log z = \ln r + i \theta$.

Of course, this looks like what the definition ought to be if one formally applies the Laws of Logarithms to $r e^{i \theta}$. However, this complex logarithm doesn’t always work the way you’d think it work. For example, $\log \left(e^{2 \pi i} \right) = \log (\cos 2\pi + i \sin 2\pi) = \log 1 = \ln 1 = 0 \ne 2\pi i$.

This is analogous to another situation when an inverse function is defined using a restricted domain, like $\sqrt{ (-3)^2 } = \sqrt{9} = 3 \ne -3$

or $\sin^{-1} (\sin \pi) = \sin^{-1} 0 = 0 \ne \pi$.

The Laws of Logarithms also may not work when nonpositive numbers are used. For example, $\log \left[ (-1) \cdot (-1) \right] = \log 1 = 0$,

but $\log(-1) + \log(-1) = \log \left( e^{\pi i} \right) + \log \left( e^{\pi i} \right) = \pi i + \pi i = 2\pi i$. This material appeared in my previous series concerning calculators and complex numbers: https://meangreenmath.com/2014/07/09/calculators-and-complex-numbers-part-21/

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.