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Classical Mathematics for E&M

  1. Sep 27, 2015 #1
    Can anyone recommend a good book that deals with the mathematics of E&M? I've read through my calculus books and feel like I understand the material there and can solve the problems. However, when it comes to it's applications in electricity and magnetism I find that I have enormous difficulty applying it correctly. A good example is Gauss' Law. I don't find the mathematics behind it that difficult to understand, and it seems fairly obvious. When it comes to applying it however I find that I almost always apply gauss's law incorrectly or in the wrong scenario. Perhaps this is not understanding the physics correctly. I'm looking for a book that would primarily have examples of the math being applied to solving E&M problems.

    As an aside, I've taken differential equations, linear algebra, calc 1-3 - basically your typical undergraduate mathematics course outline. Coming from a purely mathematical background with little physics applications so perhaps this is why I'm having difficulty as I'm finding there to be a large bridge to cross between pure mathematics and it's application
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2015 #2
    Do you have a solid grounding in Newtonian mechanics? Sometimes it helps to be exposed to physics thinking first.

    Could it be your textbook? Perhaps you could try Purcell or Griffiths. I personally find intro EM textbooks aren't very good at explaining the concepts, because they often dumb it down math-wise. You certainly have the math background I do Griffiths or Purcell.
  4. Sep 27, 2015 #3
    I'm using purcell and I find the notation (CGS units) to be a bit confusing at times in formulas, but trying to struggle through it as I should go ahead and get exposed to different systems of units and I've had an undergraduate course on newtonian mechanics.

    In purcell I don't find most of the problems to be too challenging, but when it comes to applying what I learn from purcell's book in class / tests etc I find there's a disparity as I think purcell is a bit more intensive. I've taken a quick look at griffiths perhaps I'll try his book again.

    I switched to purcell after trying to use halliday/resnick.
  5. Sep 27, 2015 #4
    I really enjoy Griffiths's book (I have it two feet away from me). It's very well-written. I don't know about Purcell--it's just something I've heard some people praise.
  6. Sep 27, 2015 #5
    I think A student's guide to maxwell's equations is what I was looking for. Purcell has a great exposition as does griffiths, but I'm lacking at the problem solving and understanding applying the techniques. More or less going from thinking like a mathematician to a physicist, and that looks to be a decent bridge between the two in regards to E&M. But I'll look at griffiths again after I go through the book mentioned, thanks for the suggestion perhaps I gave up griffiths too soon.
  7. Oct 3, 2015 #6


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    If you can master SI units, you shouldn't have any problem to master CGS units which are much simpler and much closer to the fundamental structure of electromagnetic theory which is a relativistic field theory for 150 years, although this has become clear only for about 107 years (Minkowski 1908). SCNR.

    Concerning the math, I think most introductory theory textbooks provide pretty good introductions to vector calculus at a level needed to master the physics material. My favorite in this respect are two pretty old sources:

    (a) A. Sommerfeld, Lectures on Theoretical Physics, Vol. II (Hydrodynamics). You can read the part about vector calculus without bothering about continuum mechanics (although the latter is a very interesting topic, and I consider it unfortunate that it has vanished from the standard physics curriculum, but that's another story).

    (b) R. Becker, Electromagnetic Field and Interactions. This has a quite detailed first chapter on vector algebra and calculus.
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