Initial condition

In mathematics and particularly in dynamic systems, an initial condition, in some contexts called a seed value,[1]:pp. 160 is a value of an evolving variable at some point in time designated as the initial time (typically denoted t = 0). For a system of order k (the number of time lags in discrete time, or the order of the largest derivative in continuous time) and dimension n (that is, with n different evolving variables, which together can be denoted by an n-dimensional coordinate vector), generally nk initial conditions are needed in order to trace the system's variables forward through time.

The initial condition of a vibrating string
Evolution from the initial condition

In both differential equations in continuous time and difference equations in discrete time, initial conditions affect the value of the dynamic variables (state variables) at any future time. In continuous time, the problem of finding a closed form solution for the state variables as a function of time and of the initial conditions is called the initial value problem. A corresponding problem exists for discrete time situations. While a closed form solution is not always possible to obtain, future values of a discrete time system can be found by iterating forward one time period per iteration, though rounding error may make this impractical over long horizons.