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How much math is involved in physics?

  1. Apr 13, 2009 #1
    The title says it all.

    How much time of my college career in particle physics will be spent learning mathematical concepts, theorems and equations?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2009 #2
    Are you talking about math courses in general or how much math will you use in your physics class. For math courses these are fairly standard:
    Calc I & II
    differential equations
    linear algebra
    vector analysis
    You may need more or less depending on the program.
  4. Apr 13, 2009 #3


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    By college, I assume you mean graduate school. There's no undergraduate course that is purely particle physics.
  5. Apr 13, 2009 #4

    There are some more comments about required math in that link.
  6. Apr 13, 2009 #5
    Well, the OP is really asking HOW MUCH TIME that s/he would spend on math, so I am very confused.
    Because if one is already in college, or even, as someone suggest earlier, in the grad school already, he or she should have some basic idea of how much math is involved. So I couldn't resist to wonder why the OP is asking this question?
    My answer is, it depends. Do you just want to take all the basic math classes that physics major requires? Or are you curious about all the advance, proof base (and fascinating in my opinion!) math? And then, what are you expecting to get for those classes in terms of grade? A? B?
    This is my back-of-the-envelope calculation: in my university, one credit is corresponded to about 4-7 hours of work. So to barely fulfill my physics department requirement, it'll be 76 hours-133 hours, plus strongly suggested 2 classes, which should be 24-42 hours cover, say vector analysis, Fourier transformation, etc.
    Of course, if you have already finished Calc I and II, then please subtract 40-70 hours from above.
    And if you want to do some advance math classes, maybe add another 100 hours of class load?
    This might sound intimidating, but keep in mind that you can spread them over 2-4 years. Which is not a lot.
  7. Apr 13, 2009 #6


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    If the OP is even remotely asking about particle theory he should know that is probably the most abstract math oriented area of physics and particle physics in general is more math oriented than other branches so if he is worried about the amount of math it might be time to consider other areas of physics or maybe even other areas of science.
  8. Apr 13, 2009 #7
    That's not exactly true. I'm taking an undergraduate course it particle theory.

    It seems to me like the OP is not yet in college. If you are a highschooler and interested in physics but worried about math, I have a few suggestions.

    Practice the basic math over and over until you are better than anyone else you know. By "basic math" I mean calculus. This is absolutely essential. Calculus is a type of math that requires little as far as proofs and theorems, so most people can become very proficient at it with enough practice.

    This is so important because if you can bring yourself to a point that the calculus comes naturally, you will be able to devote your full attention to the physics. You'll still be doing math, but it will be like folding your clothes.

    Beyond calculus, most of the math that I have needed in undergraduate study is introduced within my physics classes. This has increased my interest in math because it means that the math is seen alongside the physics. I get to see the ways that particular ideas in math are well suited to application in physics.
  9. Apr 13, 2009 #8
    All of it.
  10. Apr 13, 2009 #9


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    It's almost impossible to underestimate how much real time you'll spend learning math in your college career... if that helps.
  11. Apr 14, 2009 #10


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    I meant that there's no undergraduate degree that is purely about particle physics.
  12. Apr 14, 2009 #11
    Thank You
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