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I like pure mathematics AND physics. Help?

  1. Jun 1, 2013 #1
    I'm in my last year of school and starting a mathematics degree at a British university this Autumn. I've always liked mathematics, especially 'pure' side of mathematics. I love poofs and always enjoyed solving puzzles and brainteasers for fun. Some of my favourite topics of maths are geometry (especially plane Euclidean geometry), sets/logic and probability/combinatorics.

    I've also always liked physics. I'm doing Physics A-Level and I especially loved electric & magnetic fields chapter and special relativity chapter (which doesn't go into much detail unfortunately). However, mechanics has not grabbed my attention so far. Maybe it will get more interesting at university? This seems a bit strange because many people who like both maths and physics seem to like mechanics. My friends assume that I like mechanics because they know how much I like maths, which is funny because for me, it's the least interesting topic in physics A-Level.

    My question is, how much is pure mathematics and (theoretical) physics related? I love elegant proofs and pure mathematics. But I always had trouble memorising integrals at school, which is one of many reasons why I chose to study maths over physics at university. People told me physics was more of using maths techniques. Is this true for very advanced level physics such as in PhD course? Also, what are some branches of theoretical physics that rely heavily on using ideas from pure mathematics?
    Do you think it's possible to do a PhD on theoretical physics with mathematics background?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2013 #2


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    Is it possible for you to double major in both mathematics and physics? I think that would be an ideal option for you. And if that's not possible, perhaps you can do a minor in mathematics or physics. I know in my university (which is also european), you could do a major in mathematics and a minor in physics, and that way you could easily do a PhD in physics.

    Knowing pure mathematics is not necessary for physics, but it certainly is very helpful. The other way around is also true: knowing physics is very helpful for understanding mathematics properly.
  4. Jun 1, 2013 #3
    Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, it's not possible to do a double major in England. There are 'joint courses' which is basically doing 50:50 = maths:physics; but university that I'm going to doesn't have maths and physics joint course. Also, I'm not fond of idea of doing half of each.
  5. Jun 1, 2013 #4
    Generally the topics of theoretical physics with links to pure maths are high energy physics and condensed matter.

    In the end it's interesting to look at symmetries or where they are broken. Which is essentially group theory.

    If you end up doing this as a phd student then you will probably have wanted to do a masters course in this type of thing. There are several unis which offer these in the uk.

    So generally this acts as a stepping stone for people with either physics or mathematics backgrounds.

    It also lets you see if that is something you end up finding interesting.

    To some extent the language of describing mechanics becomes a little richer when you learn things from a lagrangian formalism. I found it fairly boring until then...

    Hope this helps.
  6. Jun 1, 2013 #5
    If you like proofs then you're better off doing mathematics. Math is used in physics but physics is much more than just an application of math. Physics is about concepts and ideas and understanding. Memorizing integrals isn't a prerequisite for either math or physics. Understanding is what will be tested, not memory.
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