Calculus in Physics (Pertaining to Physics majors)

In summary: I had to go back and relearn a lot of the material. However, I am currently doing well in the class and am confident that I will get an A.In summary, students who are currently enrolled in Calc III should be prepared for more difficult problems.
  • #1
vladittude0583
40
0
Hey guys, I am a physics major and currently enrolled in Physics with Calculus I at my local community college. I am planning on transferring to my local university this fall semester 2008. Anyhow, I have noticed that there is still not much calculus being used in terms of Physics with Calculus I except for cases such as velocity, acceleration, work, spring force, etc. I am also enrolled in Calculus 3 and will be taking Differential Equations in the summer semester 2008. Anyhow, I had no prior experience with Calculus whatsoever until spring semester 2007 in college unlike some of my fellow classmates who did take it during high school. I know my basic derivatives, integration, etc. However, I feel as if the teacher I had for calculus did not teach it well enough and I am sure not going to retake the class all over again. I purchased some additional books pertaining to calculus problems to further my knowledge of the materials. My question is, how much calculus do you really need to know to be a physics major? My eventual goal is to teach college physics by the way. Any ideas? My college algebra is great and my calculus I would say is average. I know that you do not have to be a super genius at math to understand physics. Like my teacher always says, even if you make all "A's" in calculus, does not necessarily guarantee an A in physics.
 
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  • #2
Calculus will be used more heavily after your first course in physics. Even in your 2nd course you'll start doing integration around a cantor, maybe some differential equations, but it does pick up. After those two courses, the math you will see will be heavily involved in calculus.

You need to know what calculus ideas mean in physics. That's the most important thing. If asked to find the maximum of a value you should think derivative. It all comes in time and generally it takes a few encounter outside of calculus to get a hang of all the ideas.
 
  • #3
Really? So what type of physics uses multivariable calculus?
 
  • #4
Ever had to work with Schrodinger Equation in spherical coordinates?
 
  • #5
Hydrargyrum said:
So what type of physics uses multivariable calculus?

E&M is chock full of div, grad and curl, and line and surface integrals, at least at the intermediate level (e.g. Griffiths) and above. Even at the introductory "physics with calculus" level, you usually get line and surface integrals in qualitative form, so you can learn about Gauss's Law, Ampere's Law, etc. in integral form, using examples that are symmetric enough that you can evaluate them without actually having to do a "real integral."

Check out these E&M lecture notes to get an idea of what goes on in an E&M course.
 
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  • #6
If you are currently enrolled in Calc 3, PAY ATTENTION!
this is something I did not do, now when I am in my E&M class I find myself having to relearn things.
Become friends with Grad, Div, Curl and all forms of Integration (surface, contour or line, volume...)
And most importantly try to really really understand alternate orthogonal coordinate systems like spherical and cylindrical. You will use them immensely in later physics courses like E&M specifically.
All too frequently in E&M I have to look up how what dV is for spherical, or dA for surface of a cylinder, just to do an integral
 
  • #7
I'm currently in Cal III. I've noticed that you have to be a bit creative in solving some of the LaGrange multipliers and Extrema. I'm doing all right in the class so far. I got an 87 on my first exam, but I should have gotten an A! - you know, silly/careless mistakes were made and all...
 
  • #8
Calc III is where the action happens. Many students have to take Calc I & II for a wide variety of degrees. So the juicy part of calculus physics was pushed back to Calc III. This way other people wouldn't be forced to take the physics based stuff... at least that is how it was explained to me.
 
  • #9
mgiddy911 said:
If you are currently enrolled in Calc 3, PAY ATTENTION!
this is something I did not do, now when I am in my E&M class I find myself having to relearn things.
Become friends with Grad, Div, Curl and all forms of Integration (surface, contour or line, volume...)
And most importantly try to really really understand alternate orthogonal coordinate systems like spherical and cylindrical. You will use them immensely in later physics courses like E&M specifically.
All too frequently in E&M I have to look up how what dV is for spherical, or dA for surface of a cylinder, just to do an integral

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0393925161/?tag=pfamazon01-20 (Amazon link).

I found it helpful when I realized that our Calc II and III classes didn't really cover what I needed to know for E&M...
 
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Related to Calculus in Physics (Pertaining to Physics majors)

1. What is the importance of calculus in physics for physics majors?

Calculus is essential in physics as it provides the mathematical tools necessary for understanding and solving complex physical problems. It helps in describing the relationships between different physical quantities and predicting the behavior of physical systems. Without calculus, it would be impossible to accurately model and analyze the natural world.

2. How is calculus applied in different branches of physics?

Calculus is used extensively in all branches of physics, such as mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics. In mechanics, calculus is used to analyze the motion of objects and to calculate forces and energy. In thermodynamics, it is used to describe the behavior of heat and temperature. In electromagnetism, it is used to understand the behavior of electric and magnetic fields. In quantum mechanics, calculus is used to study the behavior of particles on a microscopic scale.

3. What are the key concepts of calculus that are important for physics majors?

Physics majors need to have a strong understanding of both differential and integral calculus. Differential calculus is used to analyze rates of change, such as velocity and acceleration, while integral calculus is used to calculate areas, volumes, and other quantities that can be expressed as the sum of infinitely small parts. Additionally, methods such as Taylor series, vector calculus, and differential equations are also important for solving complex physics problems.

4. How does calculus help in understanding the physical laws and principles?

Calculus is the language of physics and is used to express the fundamental laws and principles that govern the behavior of the natural world. For example, Newton's laws of motion are described using differential calculus, while the laws of thermodynamics are expressed using integral calculus. By using calculus, we can derive and understand these laws and principles in a mathematical and quantitative way.

5. How can physics majors improve their calculus skills for application in physics?

To improve their calculus skills for application in physics, majors can practice solving a variety of physics problems that require the use of calculus. They can also take advanced calculus courses such as multivariable calculus, differential equations, and vector calculus. Additionally, studying the applications of calculus in physics textbooks and working through practice problems can also help in strengthening their understanding and skills.

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