1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Learning physics with an understanding of maths

  1. Jul 9, 2008 #1
    Sorry if this is in the wrong section.

    Anyway I have one question given a student with a knowledge of the following subjects: Calculus, MultiVariable calculus, Real Analysis, Complex Analysis, Linear Algebra and abstract Algebra. How long in general would it take to learn a BSC degree level worth of physics? Is the difficulty and time consuming part learning the math as opposed to learning the concepts? Such that given a strong background in maths learning the physics would be easy (in the sense that you could get through the material quickly). Okay maybe that was more than one question but oh well.

    Thanks for your help
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2008 #2
    The math is intertwined in the physics. Knowing math doesn't mean you can simply tack on the concepts and know physics. Your mathematical toolbox will make the process a lot smoother, yes. However, time must be payed, especially in problem solving.
  4. Jul 9, 2008 #3
    Applying the math and concepts together to a problem is the hard part of physics, at least in my opinion it is.
  5. Jul 13, 2008 #4
    Thanks for your help.

    One more question: What topics in maths would one need to know as a physics major at the end of undergraduate studies?
  6. Jul 13, 2008 #5
    Single & Multivariable calculus, vector calculus, linear algebra, ordinary and partial differential equations. Most would do some complex analysis as well.

    Despite your strong background in math, you lack any differential equations. Differential equations are the most important math course for physics.

    And yes, physics should be easy with the math. You can probably do it in under 2 years.
  7. Jul 13, 2008 #6
    I’m sorry but people seem to have misunderstood me. I don’t currently have that level of knowledge in maths, I just started learning calculus 1. I was attempting to understand the amount of math I would need to learn in order to have the equivalent mathematical background to that of a Physics Graduate. Not as much as I thought. I figured I would need Real Analysis and Abstract algebra as well as topology among many other topics. Am I right to say then that Real Analysis is a graduate subject then?

    I’m currently studying Computer Science; however I have come to realize that I’m much more interested in physics. I can’t change my mind now as it’s too late so my plan is to continue studying computer science, finish my degree while learning maths and physics on the side. I’ve been studying maths for a couple of months now and have gone through Algebra 1, 2 ,Trig, Pre-Calculus, Calculus 1 and I have begun learning Classical Mechanics. I know for definite that my second year in Computer Science will cover Linear Algebra in some depth and hopefully by then I’ll have finished Calculus 1 and 2 and be starting Calculus 3: Multivariable Calculus, double integrals, Partial Derivatives and the like.

    Hopefully I will know enough Math, Physics and Computer Science in order to do postgraduate work in Quantum Computation an area I’m extremely interested in that I understand will provide an extremely lucrative research career. Big Up the Qubits!!!

    Thanks for everyone’s help and if anyone has any opinions of my career plan please say so and we can discuss! Thanks.
  8. Jul 14, 2008 #7
    Well then, yes that is all you need for undergraduate physics. Deeper math comes with specialization. For example, if you specialize in string theory I've heard you'll need some topology. Ideally, you would need abstract algebra, differential geometry, and real analysis to study most graduate streams.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook