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Math recommended to study physics

  1. Jul 30, 2015 #1
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    From the preface to the first edition of K&K:
    I don't have Purcell, but from the very first Amazon user review, written by a frequent poster here on PF, who teaches at the college level:
  4. Jul 30, 2015 #3
    You may find this useful: http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gadda001/goodtheorist/index.html

    It's a site made by Nobel Prize in Physics laureate Gerard 't Hooft to help people self study physics, and it contains lots of links. For your case it also has a discussion of the relevant mathematics you should know.

    Generally speaking to get started you need a good grasp of the computational aspects of single variable calculus and relevant coordinate geometry, and ideally familiarity with infinite series, basic matrix algebra, and complex numbers.

    The topics in the Schaum's Outline of Advanced Mathematics for Scientists and Engineers are a decent indicator of the topics commonly encountered from a pretty basic level to an intermediate-advanced undergraduate level.
  5. Jul 30, 2015 #4


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    Gold Member

    K&K is a good book. If you want the full benefit of all the little insightful nuggets a working knowledge of a typical calculus 1&2 series (Taylor series) will be satisfactory. Less is certainly doable though. That said, I wouldn't advocate it to someone who's never seen physics at all before or has difficulty applying math to physical problems. In that case, online resources are probably the best place to start self-study. A R&H&C 4th edition can also be had for like 20 bucks, and is another good place to start, if you prefer paper format and don't want to print online texts. This is all assuming you've never seen physics before.

    Purcell is also a good book, and like jtbell mentions requires some study in vector calculus to glean the most from it.

    Another good thing is the price point, both texts are cheapish compared to new editions of other physics text books.

    If you want to study calculus as well concurrently, Anton has a decent book, which can be had for about 5 dollars on amazon. Some people don't like, but it's a good everyman's book in my opinion. (Edit, never mind, looked it up on amazon and it's now about 30 dollars for a used copy. Which is surprising, not sure why it went up.)
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