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Skills/attributes of a mathematician/physicist/programmer etc

  1. Feb 25, 2013 #1
    All theses fields require some sort of common sense and logic. All require us to use our brain and come up with solutions. But if you are good at one that does not mean you are good at the other. Why is this?

    One of my friends is a math genius but he is not that good a programmer. I don't know why. He doesn't seem to be able to come up with solutions to a programming question as fast as the best coders.

    Similarly the best coders are not the best mathematicians. same with other disciplinews
    I suppose different types of disciplines require different types of thinking. Sure they all require logic and common sense but still different type of approach and a person with mastery in one is not necessary good in another.

    your views?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2013 #2
    Mathematics, programming and physics are not similar imo.

    Mathematics requires proving theorems. Physics requires applying whatever is proved by mathematicians and finding relations based on experiments. Programming requires converting intuitive steps to step by step logical and elementary machine commands.
  4. Feb 25, 2013 #3


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    It depends tho. Some people are better at math, some are good at physics. I know I struggle with physics but math is easier for me.
  5. Feb 25, 2013 #4
    it is mostly about practice and knowledge. How much time does your mathematician friend spend on programing compared with the ''best coders''?
  6. Feb 26, 2013 #5
    My question was a bit too general - sorry for that. What I actually meant to ask was that why a good programmer need not be a good mathematician and vice-versa?

    What type of skills does a programmer require contrary to a mathematician? If you have seen the type of questions on programming websites like spoj, what are they actually trying to test?
  7. Feb 26, 2013 #6
    For example, a progammer will always need to find an efficient solution. Mathematicians typically don't care about efficiency or about finding a constructive solution. They're usually happy if they can show a solution exist and if they have some reasonably method with which to prove things about the solution.

    For example, mathematicians can very easily prove that there are an infinite number of primes. So mathematicians can really easy show that for each prime, there is a prime number bigger than it. But this proof doesn't give you in any way a procedure or formula with which to actually find the larger prime. And even if a certain proof would give a procedure, it still might be awfully inefficient and take a very long time to compute.

    Now, I am quite certain that most mathematicians would be good programmers if they only had the right training. As of now, the mathematics education does not prepare one to be a decent programmer at all. It does however teach logic, critical thinking and creativity, which are quite important (but not sufficient) to be a good programmer.
  8. Feb 26, 2013 #7
    I have no idea why I asked this question but anyways thanks micromass!
    Can you tell what kind of training would a programmer require?
  9. Feb 26, 2013 #8


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    Programmers have to deal with two things: state space and flow control.

    State space also has as a part of it the structural composition of data, interfaces, stacks, pointers and so on.

    The programmer doesn't deal with generalities: they deal with specifics.

    As a result of dealing with specifics, the programmer must also deal with the explicit structure of data and its context within the boundaries of the program.

    Mathematicians do not often deal with specific structures like a programmer has to. An example is that while mathematicians have to deal with say real numbers, the programmer must know the exact specific form in memory and each transformation or operation on that structure changes it explicitly.

    For personally, this is one of the biggest differences between mathematicians and programmers (and I use to be a programmer with my new career being a statistician).

    You also have in programming (as compared to math) a way of organizing and dealing with much more complex environments of code that are not as abstract as that of high level math, but still complex enough to warrant a sophistication of techniques to be able to organize things in many ways.

    But if you want to be a good programmer, you will have to be good at track the state the system at any time and also knowing how the flow-control impacts the entire program itself.

    You learn this by doing lots and lots of debugging and code writing and after a while you begin to sense intuitively what is going on.
  10. Mar 4, 2013 #9
    This would refer to philosophers as well.
  11. May 10, 2013 #10
    I know some people that good in both physics and programming. Some game programmers have skillful in geometry, coordinates transformation, and some related stuff from mathematics and physics fields. AI programmers, computational physicists?
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