Register to reply

Math In physics

by Flustered
Tags: math, physics
Share this thread:
Flustered
#1
Mar28-12, 09:57 PM
P: 75
Hello I had a couple set backs in high school none the less. Im a freshman in college now and taking college algebra, and I hate using the quadratic formula to figure things out. I know physics has a lot of trigonometry and calculus. How much algebra should I be expecting in my travel to physics 234 and what not?
Phys.Org News Partner Science news on Phys.org
Apple to unveil 'iWatch' on September 9
NASA deep-space rocket, SLS, to launch in 2018
Study examines 13,000-year-old nanodiamonds from multiple locations across three continents
Pengwuino
#2
Mar28-12, 10:02 PM
PF Gold
Pengwuino's Avatar
P: 7,120
None of us have any idea what university you attend, thus none of us have any idea what physics 234 is. I suspect it's the introductory algebra based physics courses, though. If you can't (or is it that you just dislike it) use the quadratic formula, you are going to have problems. Physics requires a solid foundation in algebra.
Stephen Tashi
#3
Mar28-12, 10:05 PM
Sci Advisor
P: 3,296
Quote Quote by Flustered View Post
Hello I had a couple set backs in high school none the less. Im a freshman in college now and taking college algebra, and I hate using the quadratic formula to figure things out. I know physics has a lot of trigonometry and calculus. How much algebra should I be expecting in my travel to physics 234 and what not?
There's a section of the forum for the topic of academic guidance. You might get better advice if you have your post moved there. And do you expect people to know what course physics 234 is? Course numberings aren't standardized from college to college - at least in the USA. Doesn't your college publish the prerequisites for the courses?

Flustered
#4
Mar28-12, 10:34 PM
P: 75
Math In physics

I guess my question really is, how much math is involved in AstroPhysics and how much solar systems, formation of the moon etc.. I decided to major in AstroPhysics because I watch all of the "how the universe works" and I want to learn about how the galaxies were formed, where particles came from. I didn't know that you need to be a mathematician to understand all of this.
Shyan
#5
Mar28-12, 10:54 PM
Shyan's Avatar
P: 842
Well so tough luck
You scare algebra?!So don't even look at physics.
Because I can give you a list with 3 pages that says what mathematics do you need for physics.
And YES!You should be a mathematician to understand physics,sometimes even more!
Jamma
#6
Mar29-12, 09:07 AM
P: 429
Don't be scared of maths - the main reasons people dislike it, in my opinion, is that it is

A) Teached badly in schools and
B) The maths they teach you in schools, in general, is extremely boring, making it harder to study.

If you are serious about doing physics, you should be serious about getting good at maths. And don't worry, even if you don't think you enjoy maths (or are good at it), you will start to enjoy it (and get better at it) after you've got past the tedious details which get you started and can begin seeing the beauty of maths.
Flustered
#7
Mar29-12, 10:44 AM
P: 75
I like math I think math is easy, the hard part is just remember the formulas to solve a problem.
homeomorphic
#8
Mar29-12, 10:56 AM
P: 1,262
I'm not an astrophysicist, but you can get by with different levels of math, depending on what kind of astrophysicist you want to be. I have heard about applications of PhD level math to astrophysics, but that isn't necessary. However, the minimum math level would be very high, by your standards. Calculus (including vector calculus), linear algebra, ordinary differential equations, differential geometry, partial differential equations, calculus of variations.

I like math I think math is easy, the hard part is just remember the formulas to solve a problem.
Math isn't really about using formulas to solve a problem. Formulas, when they come up, often have a physical or geometric meaning and that's how to remember a lot of them. Or you remember how to derive the formula.

I think you need to read Lockheart's lament to see what you've been missing:

http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_03_08.html
micromass
#9
Mar29-12, 11:44 AM
Mentor
micromass's Avatar
P: 18,290
If you want to do physics, then your algebra will have to be excellent. You'll have to be able to solve quadratic formula's with ease. If you find algebra hard, then you need to practice even more before starting physics.
Flustered
#10
Mar29-12, 12:31 PM
P: 75
Im just having a hard time seeing where the quadratic formula is going to come in hand, when i'm studying how planets move or expansion of space. (examples)
marcusl
#11
Mar29-12, 12:48 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
P: 2,080
You want examples of problems in rigid body motion that use algebra? In relativity? Quantum mechanics? You can take it from the physicists here that you need to master algebra (and an awful lot more) to do well in physics. Study hard, ask questions, and practice. The math and physics you use will get more challenging and much more interesting as you move through the physics curriculum.
Angry Citizen
#12
Mar29-12, 12:53 PM
P: 867
Quote Quote by Flustered View Post
Im just having a hard time seeing where the quadratic formula is going to come in hand, when i'm studying how planets move or expansion of space. (examples)
Quadratic equations come up frequently in classical mechanics, which includes how planets move. One example would be a solution to a differential equation based on F=ma, which is really just F=m*d^2r/dr^2 - a second-order differential equation.

Maybe you're wanting to analyze planetary accretion in a newly formed gaseous nebula. You might be interested in how a large body would travel in such a medium. You might formulate a second-order differential equation that assumes a central force (a central star, for instance), a 'drag' force proportional to the velocity of the planet and tangent to the elliptical orbit, and a non-uniform gas medium. Thus, your differential equation would be dependent on the second derivative of your position (acceleration), the first derivative of your position (velocity), and your position itself. The resulting differential equation can be solved using a quadratic equation and a couple assumptions that turn out to be true.

And that's just something I can think of off the top of my head.
ZapperZ
#13
Mar29-12, 01:09 PM
Emeritus
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
ZapperZ's Avatar
P: 29,238
Quote Quote by Flustered View Post
I guess my question really is, how much math is involved in AstroPhysics and how much solar systems, formation of the moon etc.. I decided to major in AstroPhysics because I watch all of the "how the universe works" and I want to learn about how the galaxies were formed, where particles came from. I didn't know that you need to be a mathematician to understand all of this.
I strongly suggest you look up texts such as Mary Boas's "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences". That should give you a very good idea on the type and level of mathematics you will need.

Zz.
Jorriss
#14
Mar29-12, 01:09 PM
P: 1,062
Quote Quote by Flustered View Post
Im just having a hard time seeing where the quadratic formula is going to come in hand, when i'm studying how planets move or expansion of space. (examples)
I use the quadratic formula all the time from pure math classes such as deriving an expression for inverse sine or to physical chemistry for finding the amount of gas in a container at equilibrium to physics!

Truth is, despite if you can see it or not at this point, ALL the math you learn until you are done with lower division math completely is useful.

Partial fractions, all your factoring techniques, all of it.
DrummingAtom
#15
Mar29-12, 04:07 PM
P: 661
Quote Quote by homeomorphic View Post
I think you need to read Lockheart's lament to see what you've been missing:

http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_03_08.html
Wow, incredible read. That makes me want to get into teaching to try to save some tortured souls.
Flustered
#16
Mar29-12, 04:19 PM
P: 75
Thanks for all the replies.


Register to reply

Related Discussions
What math courses should I take (math/physics double major) Academic Guidance 0
PhD math/applied math/theoretical physics Academic Guidance 10
Which Math Electives for a Math/Physics double major? Academic Guidance 0
Is math real? Is physics math describable? General Discussion 38
Physics + pure math or applied math? Academic Guidance 3