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Necessity of physics

  1. Nov 19, 2007 #1
    I'm taking general physics right now. It's a calculus based physics class and it's kicking my butt. However, I was thinking to myself, is it possible to still go to grad school for math if physics isn't my forte. I'm just required to take on semester, but I'm really lost in my physics class. Math wise, life is good, nothing has been so challenging that I can't overcome it on my own without a couple minutes of extra thought.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2007 #2
    Physics is just an application of math... You can go to grad school for a math degree but I'd made sure it's the concepts that are giving you trouble in physics, because if it's actually that math part of the physics then you might have some problems.
  4. Nov 20, 2007 #3
    I would assume that it is the concepts too. Well more of what I'm suppose to do with the equations outside of normal algebraic manipulation. I know how they should work, and for the most part I can grasp what's going on. I just have problems actually executing the physics problem's solution. I've taken Calculus and Linear Algebra and practically breezed through them, physics has just recently demoralized me.
  5. Nov 20, 2007 #4
    Physics is different from math. The purpose of physics is to model things we've seen through experiment and try to understand how it works. Extrapolate new information from that, test it, rinse, repeat.

    I can't speak much for math since I've only taken the more practical classes like Diff EQ's, Linear Algebra, Calc, etc. Friend of mine who is a math major said it's just "theorem this, theorem that", but he actually understands what's going on in the physics classes he's taking with me.

    So I guess I could put it this way:

    Math = creating a new language

    Physics = using that language to write a novel, which is how the universe works

    There's a reason why getting a literature degree is different from getting a degree in a language.
  6. Nov 20, 2007 #5


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    That's a cool analogy PL!
  7. Nov 21, 2007 #6
    If you can do calculus and linear algebra, then it isn't the maths for physics that is causing you problems... calc and LA being the maths for physics!
    Solving physics problems is definitely a different skill to solving maths problems. Physics problems generally require 1) an intution as to how to formulate a physical situation in terms of maths 2) the ability to synthesise concepts, and introduce new ideas or formulae to a problem when the initial analysis cannot otherwise be taken further. If you can get your head around the abstraction and rigour needed to study pure maths, then I wouldn't have any worries about grad school because of one physics course :smile:
  8. Nov 23, 2007 #7

    Chris Hillman

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    Ditto those who said "sure", as long as this continues to hold in math courses through graduation:

    One thing: to echo some other recent threads, its never too early to look into math research opportunities if you know you want to go to grad school in math! There are some excellent programs in Hungary, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and no doubt many other countries.
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