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Linear algebra among physicists

  1. Dec 19, 2006 #1
    how many physics majors take formal courses in linear algebra?

    I got it done this semester and found it to be one of the most applicable mathematical subjects out there, just thinking about doing differential equations without linear algebra gives me the willies, and looking at the physics curricula at a number of schools I see that its not required, so I have to wonder how many people take it?
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 19, 2006 #2
    Linear algebra is highly recommended at the school I did undergrad at. Not only is it extremely helpful, like you said, but it was also a pre-req for some of the higher level courses in the math department. They had two courses actually. One was rigorous with proofs and mainly for the main majors. Another was mainly learning the concepts and for everyone else.
  4. Dec 19, 2006 #3

    Dr Transport

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    Linear algebra along with PDE's and DE's is an essential part of a physicists math education, you will not get too fat in QM without it.
  5. Dec 19, 2006 #4
    Geez, I knew QM required lots of study time but I thought I might at least have SOME time for exercise next semester; I'm fat enough as it is. :tongue2:
  6. Dec 19, 2006 #5
    A professor of mine called this sitzfleisch, which I always assumed meant the fat ass you get from doing lots of deskwork.
  7. Dec 20, 2006 #6
    Every physicist has taken them. I had such courses in high school (eg linear vector theory, eigenvectors), first (Jordan normal forms, vector spaces etc etc) and second year of college. Thery are an essential part of the theoretical framework behind physics

  8. Dec 20, 2006 #7
    it's actually not a requirement at UF, even though i think it should be. i also think that the proof-oriented course (as opposed to a mere computational one) should be taken by the serious physics student. you'll see a lot of the proofs again, especially with inner product spaces, etc.
  9. Dec 20, 2006 #8
    Linear Algebra is not a requirement in the physics dept at my school, Loyola Chicago, however I am doing their combined math and physics major and it is a requirement for that, I am in it this comming semester, I am hoping it is better than my calc 3 class
  10. Dec 21, 2006 #9


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    For me it was compulsory in the first year of university studies. In the second semester, just as mathematical analysis was in the first semester. Its relevance for a physics student is mainly due to the QM course. If that course is taught in a superficial manner, then it's probably not required of the student to take the linear algebra b4, since in the introductory lectures (of the QM course) some elementary linear algebra absolutely necessary for QM can be dealt with.

  11. Dec 21, 2006 #10
    At UW it's required first year for all physics students. The math phys kids take another course second year as well.
  12. Apr 20, 2011 #11


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    Linear Algebra was not a requirement for me, but was highly recommended.
  13. Apr 21, 2011 #12
    At my school, physics students have to take two linear algebra courses in the first and second years. The first one covered up to eigenvalues and eigenvectors, and involved very little proofs since it's primarily taught for engineers. From what I've seen from my former physics classmates, apparently the second one is much more challenging and proof-based.
  14. Apr 21, 2011 #13
    Yea Linear Algebra isnt required at my school either, they just take up to ODE and then a course on Mathematical Physics. Alot of them are doing math minors (like me but I'm an EE) and Linear Algebra is a required course for a math minor.

    In fact the whole reason I'm doing a math minor is because I wanted to take linear algebra and after that I just needed 2 more classes.
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