Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Cosmology: What math/physics background?

  1. Aug 25, 2012 #1
    Hi. I'm an undergraduate student interested in cosmology. Initially, it was astrophysics, and I know it's a large field and I'm generalizing, but I felt a lot of the work was statistical analysis and letting the computer crunch images and letting it do things for you.

    I know a lot of knowledge builds on itself, so I've been making a list of areas of knowledge I sort of need to know. Can I get some pointers in the right direction for what I want to do? (Cosmology)

    Analysis: At least complex analysis and theory of PDEs
    Calculus: At least ODEs/PDEs/tensor calculus
    Linear Algebra:
    Abstract algebra: Group/Ring/Galois theory, representation theory -> Lie groups / Topology

    Classical mechanics: statics -> action principles -> hamiltonian/lagrangian
    At least basic optics: Doppler -> Wave propagation
    Statistical / thermodynamics: 3 laws -> Ising model -> Planck's radiation law
    Electromag: Maxwell's equations (electrostatics, electrodynamics)
    Particle physics:
    Quantum mechanics:
    General relativity:
    Special relativity:

    I know a lot of it is incomplete and/or incorrect. Any guidance for the natural progression of learning these subjects will be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2012 #2
    Computer programming and numerical techniques seem like they would be very helpful.
  4. Aug 25, 2012 #3
    What languages would you recommend for computer programming?

    I've heard fortran is the most used, but it is very dated, so I am unsure.
  5. Aug 25, 2012 #4
    Whatever you're comfortable with. All languages boil down to similar logic.
  6. Aug 25, 2012 #5
    I would start with whatever language your professors are doing their cosmology research in. That way you can have a useful skill to do some undergrad research with them.
  7. Aug 25, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If you're an undergrad, I don't think this matters at all. Just do the coursework for your undergrad physics degree.

    The following will all be part of your graduate coursework: GR, tensor calculus (taught as part of GR), QFT, particle physics, abstract algebra (the parts used in physics, which doesn't include Galois theory).

    You don't need computer programming skills going into grad school. They're easy to pick up at the low level required for scientific research (in the fields of scientific research where they're needed at all). If you take an undergrad programming course they'll cram you full of the minutiae of object-oriented programming and/or the heinously complex syntax of C++; none of this is at all necessary for physics research.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook