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Can someone give me a glimpse of the math

  1. Jun 16, 2007 #1
    Nearly everybody is saying that the math involved in aerospace engineering is hellish or very very hard, can anybody give me a glimpse of the math involved, ie: a problem worked out by undergrad in the major? or something similar
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2007 #2


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    Others will have better info. but I did take a junior level course on compressible flow. The math wasn't too bad there except where it was impossible and you reverted to empirically determined or numerically computed tables. You do need a good grasp of your integral and differential calculus, and an ability to solve differential equations. I found the course fascinating. A typical problem that I recall was:

    Given a tank at a given pressure, temperature and volume and given the outside pressure, determine if and if so how long a shock wave forms in a puncture of a given width.

    Since a great many of the problems one solves are handled by numerical computation, you will need to also understand finite difference and finite element methods. The math there, though "nothing more than linear algebra" can be quite challenging. You need, for real problems, some theory of solving large systems of linear equations involving sparse matrices. (Or at least the theory of using canned packages to so solve and what strengths and weaknesses various algorithms have.)

    But let me also say that different people find different aspects of mathematics difficult. You won't know what is "hellish" vs "heavenly" to you until you delve into it. Even if you find your mathematical ability is not up to the task, what you do learn if you bail will still be broadly useful in other fields. Mathematics is a huge toolbox and no one ever regrets learning to use the tools. Rather usually the reverse.

    May I also suggest you check the website of various colleges where the degree is offered, find the texts for specific courses and the mathematical prerequisites. If you have a nearby university you can go to the bookstore and thumb through the texts. You might also find course descriptions and some professors' notes online.

    James Baugh
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2007
  4. Jun 16, 2007 #3
  5. Jun 16, 2007 #4

    Try better sources of information next time.
  6. Jun 16, 2007 #5
    Honestly, I heard the same thing about Electrical Engineering. The math can get nasty sometimes, but it's never more then can be handled if you are careful. It's the people that don't have a solid grasp of where the ugly equations come from that seem to have the most problems.

    My final in microelectronic circuits last semester had some truly horrible equations all through the semester and a lot of people spent many hours developing their formula sheets, most of them failed or barely passed the class. Those of us who got A's and B's had a few example problems, the base equations, and a couple of the trickier derivations. Mine took me about 30 mins to make and I hardly touched it during the test.

    Most of the time, you can reduce even the nastiest problems down to simple general relationships, it's when you start to expand those to find specific and detailed quantities that things get ugly, but at the same time, your rarely working with math concepts that you haven’t been exposed to several times already.
  7. Jun 16, 2007 #6


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    I'm assuming you have yet to go to college, and you are considering Aero as a major. If this is the case, a lot of people here can give you tons of glimpses of the math involved in probably any area of physics and engineering, but will this really help you? Chances are, any of the math we show you will probably be something that you have absolutely no understanding of, and of course it's going to look hellish to you.

    A better point of view would be this I think. Instead of worrying about the math involved, it would be better to concentrate on things like the following. Do you like the math you have done? Do you like what you did in physics in high school? Would you like to learn more math and science? If the answer to these are yes, then engineering or physics, whatever the field, may be for you. Don't worry about what others think about the math, or about how the math looks to you at the moment, because it will definitely look hellish, rather ask yourself it you would enjoy learning that material.
  8. Jun 17, 2007 #7
    Im a Mechanical Engineer major, so let me tell you this. We have used every formula in all the math courses I have ever taken. Does this mean the math is hellish? No, unless you dont know how to do math.

    If you cant do the math, you're going to suffer in any science major and they will all seem hellish to you.
  9. Jun 17, 2007 #8
    yeah im just entering college right now and starting off with calc 1, i like doing math, but the physics just makes my head hurt(not that i despise learning physics, but learning the material takes time for me to comprehend)

    anybody know what a typical test is like in aerospace engineering or any other field of engineering? how much time do they give you to do the tests?
  10. Jun 17, 2007 #9
    You get exactly as much time on the test as the class time is. If you're lucky, the teacher will give you a few extra minutes.

    Take your time and master all your math courses. Dont just know how to find the answer, be able to fully understand every step of every proof. Also, there is nothing hard about physics. Its all step by step, and each step should make logical sense to you. If you dont understand a step, stop and thick about it or go get help from your professor. Never just skim through the proofs and start using the formulas blindly. If you do this, its going to seem "hellish" because you never really mastered anything.

    I used to think the proofs in clac were some esoteric theory that only really smart people undestand, then I retook the course and followed each step, one a time. There's no reason why you cant follow each step and undestand the thought process behind the derivations.

    Asking us for a typical test is pretty much pointless, and its not going to help you, nor will it give you any insight as there is too much variation between professors let alone different universities when it comes to exams.
  11. Jun 30, 2007 #10
    Sounds a bit hellish... but then again i'm probably biased against electricity because i didn't do too well on that chapter last year in physics :)

    About narrowing it down to general relationships, the entire first half of the year this year could have been narrowed down to a=v/t and v=d/t and F=ma ... lol i guess that seems simple to you since it's high school physics :)
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