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Courses Recommend Maths and CS Courses for Physics Major!

  1. Jul 12, 2009 #1
    Hi there,

    I'm planning on double major in Physics and Mathematics...and i could really use some help from you guise (Physics major in particular).

    First off, i recon that i'll be needing some skills in CS, being able to operate some programs like Maple, Matlab etc. I'm already working on Maple but apart from that i'm literally a newbie to CS. So, my first qn being, as a Physics major, what CS course(s) should i take? I hear Numerical Analysis is a real help, what else? How important/useful can C/C+ be?

    Secondly and more importantly, what Mathematics courses would you recommend?

    Our Physics department requires at least:

    Calc I
    Calc II
    Calc III
    and Intro to Differential Equations (which is ODE)

    I was recommended to take Applied Linear Algebra but I took Linear Algebra as it counts for my Math major too. My univ also offers Linear Algebra II however, I don't want to take it unless there is really a good reason to do so.

    Next two semester i'll be taking Analysis and Abstract Algebra (part I and II for both) as it is required for Math majors. Then, i'll be free to take courses of my choice...since i still would have 2 more year to get my Physics major done...i'm literally looking at 8 elective math course So i need to plan ahead of time.

    I'm really hooked into Calc and ODE (apart from Calc III, didn't enjoy those 3D mumble jumble that much) so i'm keeping Applied Differential Equations and Real Analysis (part I and II) on priority list. Then there is Advanced Calculus I course. Like said above i really do enjoy Calc but i'm curious if it's something similar to Calc III (in that case i would aviod).

    Another interest is Complex Analysis. They offer three course on this (part I II and applied CA )...so it would be a very pleasant ride if i'm into this but i have very little idea of what this course is, even after reading the catalog. I would really appreciate a detailed input into this course in particular.

    edit: If you have any other course to suggest please do so.

    A few more to add...

    They also seem to have "Boundary Value Problems" which requires me to do Applied DE, Applied, CA, and Linear Algebra....so this is something I'm curious about too.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2009 #2
    You probably won't learn much about maple or mathematica in any CS class. I would suggest taking computational math or physics (usually called 'applied mathematics' or 'applied physics').

    As for complex analysis, it is a very important course for physics. It will come up in electrodynamics, quantum mechanics (and, later, QFT), etc.
  4. Jul 12, 2009 #3
    actually they do offer a maple course for Engineers, although i can't take the course b/c of college restriction (LAS to Engineering does not work i think) but i can just sit in lectures lol.

    thnx for the info, appreciate it!
  5. Jul 12, 2009 #4
    Complex analysis couldn't hurt. I'm not sure it would be the most useful, per se, but it couldn't hurt.

    Numerical analysis would be good for your physics education, although you may not find uses for it inside your physics and/or math classes.

    I would recommend you actually go ahead and take Linear Algebra. It's pretty fundamental to the study of Quantum Mechanics, and it crops up other places too.

    If your school offers anything in Partial Differential Equations, that is an excellent course to take. It has very clear applications to E&M and QM.

    Functional Analysis would be good too, particularly for classical mechanics.

    Any advanced probability and statistics classes would be good for, among other things, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. Prob & Stat classes are probably the most useful things in the world.

    Don't forget about possible independent study / research / thesis / special problems / projects classes. It shows iniative and creativity, and people are liable to notice that.

    As far as CS classes... well, it's true you won't learn any Maple, Mathematica, or Matlab in them. If that's all you want, then avoid the CS department. However, I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a few courses in CS. For instance, your school may have any of the following courses:
    (1) Discrete math - covers some fringe topics in basic math
    (2) Algorithms - covers design and analysis of algorithms, and will in general make you a much more competent computationalist
    (3) Programming Languages - survey of languages with programming experience, so that you're not limited to Matlab and Maple...
    (4) Data Structures - normally sort of a cross between (1), (2), and (3).
    (5) Software Engineering - how to analyze requirements, design systems, test them, and document it all

    Each of these courses would be of use to the Physicist/Mathematician who otherwise knows how to program in a very basic way but would like to learn more.

    There's nothing more disheartening than an otherwise brilliant 35-year-old Physics professor who knows about as much about computers and computation as your average high-school graduate.
  6. Aug 9, 2009 #5
    they don't offer PDE for undergrad unfortunately.

    as per Complex Analysis could someone shed more light on it plz? siyphsc said it's very important and AUMathTutor hints its not that important. Should i just take Application of Complex Analysis or take all of them (CA 1, 2, and application of CA) or skip CA alltogether?

    also what programming language is recommended? Should i know at least one or perhaps multiple?

    ...and what about Advanced Calculus course? Is it something like Calc III with 3D stuff?

    thanks, any more input would be greatly appreciated.
  7. Aug 10, 2009 #6
    Complex Analysis is important. The application of CA class would probably be sufficient - as its main applications lie in physics. If you have room / time you could take regular CA I and II. Many people find complex analysis one of the more interesting math classes they take.

    As for programming, I'd say that python and C++ are two of the most common languages used among physicists.
  8. Aug 10, 2009 #7
    thanks for the response.

    i'm planning on talking C++ course at university. and i'm planning application of CA for next summer (before i take CA I and II)...it should give me a feel of it...or at e

    I was looking into python last night...i found several websites/books on it but not the program...it's a program right? (lol). If so is it free or i have to pay for it?
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2009
  9. Aug 10, 2009 #8
    C++/C/FORTRAN/PYTHON etc are all programming languages. They have a syntax that you write it in (is human readable... well I guess that depends on who writes the code). You then compile the code into a machine readable executable. You either pay for or find a free compiler. You do not need anything more than a text editor and a compiler to write code. They are fundamentally different then Mathematica/Maple which are more of symbolic algebra/calculus solvers (this is not entirely true, but you get the idea). They are actually programs that you need to buy to run and solve problems.

    I would say, just learn one language well. It really is the process of learningthe fundamentals of programming and to learn how to solve problems using a program that is important. For instance, I took a few C++ courses as an undergrad and now I use FORTRAN almost exclusively for computational work. You can always learn a new syntax, but it is the fundamentals of programming and the good coding practices you learn in a class that is really important IMO.
  10. Aug 12, 2009 #9

    I had a fair idea of what C++ is but i thought fortran was some short of program like maple, matlab, or mathematica.

    Thnx for the insightful response.
  11. Sep 17, 2009 #10
    How useful is MATLAB for physics/mathematics compared to C++, C, FORTRAN, PYTHON, JAVA, etc...?
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