Legendre polynomials

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Legendre polynomials (also known as Legendre functions of the first kind, Legendre coefficients, or zonal harmonics) are solutions of the Legendre differential equation. The Legendre polynomial, P_n (z) can be defined by the contour integral

P_n (z) = \frac{1}{2 \pi i} \oint ( 1-2tz + t^2)^{1/2}~t^{-n-1} {\rm d}t

Legendre polynomials can also be defined (Ref 1) using Rodrigues formula, used for producing a series of orthogonal polynomials, as:

 P_n(x) = \frac{1}{2^n n!} \frac{d^n}{dx^n} (x^2 - 1)^n

Legendre polynomials form an orthogonal system in the range [-1:1], i.e.:

 \int_{-1}^{1} P_n(x) P_m(x) d x = 0, for  m \ne n


\int_{-1}^{1} P_n(x) P_n(x) d x = \frac{2}{2n+1}

The first seven Legendre polynomials are:

\left. P_0 (x) \right.=1

\left. P_1 (x) \right.=x

P_2 (x) =\frac{1}{2}(3x^2-1)

P_3 (x) =\frac{1}{2}(5x^3 -3x)

P_4 (x) =\frac{1}{8}(35x^4 - 30x^2 +3)

P_5 (x) =\frac{1}{8}(63x^5 - 70x^3 + 15x)

P_6 (x) =\frac{1}{16}(231x^6 -315x^4 + 105x^2 -5)

"shifted" Legendre polynomials (which obey the orthogonality relationship in the range [0:1]):

\overline{P}_0 (x) =1

\overline{P}_1 (x) =2x -1

\overline{P}_2 (x) =6x^2 -6x +1

\overline{P}_3 (x) =20x^3 - 30x^2 +12x -1

Powers in terms of Legendre polynomials:

\left. x \right.= P_1 (x)

x^2= \frac{1}{3}[P_0 (x) + 2P_2(x)]

x^3= \frac{1}{5}[3P_1 (x) + 2P_3(x)]

x^4= \frac{1}{35}[7P_0 (x) + 20P_2(x)+ 8P_4(x)]

x^5= \frac{1}{63}[27P_1 (x) + 28P_3(x)+ 8P_5(x)]

x^6= \frac{1}{231}[33P_0 (x) + 110P_2(x)+ 72P_4(x)+ 16P_6(x)]

Applications in statistical mechanics[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. B. P. Demidotwitsch, I. A. Maron, and E. S. Schuwalowa, "Métodos numéricos de Análisis", Ed. Paraninfo, Madrid (1980) (translated from Russian text)