# The set of maths i would need to learn all of physics?

1. Jun 1, 2013

### mpatryluk

I decided this would be better in the physics forum than math.

Ultimately, I've set a goal for myself to commit to learning as much physics as i can.

I tried to skip forward to particle physics and see if i could pick up the math prerequisites as i went, but there was too much i was unfamiliar with, so my question is:

What are the maths i would need if i wanted to learn classical mechanics, elcectro/thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, and particle and nuclear physics?

The math i know right know really just consists of integral and differential calculus

Also i've come to realize that despite my ambitions, i just dont have the physics prerequisites to start at particle physics, given i only know classical mechanics/thermodynamics.

In which order should i be tackling these, and, am i missing anything?

Last edited: Jun 1, 2013
2. Jun 1, 2013

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
If you don't know differential equations (ordinary and partial, linear and nonlinear) you will be stopped in your tracks at some point.

3. Jun 1, 2013

### mpatryluk

That's very true- although isnt that a fundamental component of integral/derivative calculus?- any of the equations that ive dealt with that involve solving for/dealing with derivatives/integrals? Or, i guess it gets alot more complicated and specialized than that?

Edit: Yea, i whipped out my calc book and there are chapters on DEs that havent even covered... Thanks!

Last edited: Jun 1, 2013
4. Jun 1, 2013

5. Jun 1, 2013

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
The differential and integral calculus is just the basic material, like what arithmetic is to algebra. ODEs and PDEs, especially harmonic functions (Laplace eqn., etc.) are found quite frequently in connection with describing various physical phenomena. In addition, while the theory of linear differential eqns. is fairly well developed, non-linear DEs are not as well understood, and a comprehensive theory (if one exists) has yet to be developed.

6. Jun 1, 2013

### technician

Physics is about what happens and how it happens....maths is part of the story....learn about physics....maths is just a tool.
Maths is not physicsFaraday...cannot ignore him!!...was useless at maths...so was einstein

Last edited: Jun 1, 2013
7. Jun 1, 2013

### mpatryluk

But how can i learn physics if i cant even understand the notation explaining the prerequisite concepts for what im trying to learn?

I understand that i can learn the qualitative aspects and descriptions, but to be useful in any sense i feel like i would need to know the specific quantitative relationships, and by extension the maths that dictate how those quantitative relationships are represented.

Also, i've heard that Einstein was actually quite good at math, just that comparatively to the math of mathematicians he was utterly confused.

8. Jun 1, 2013

### physwizard

Very frankly, if you know differential and integral calculus you can get started on learning physics right away. Physics is more about concepts and ideas really and in general, you shouldn't let not knowing the math hold you back, you can learn the additional math as and when you require it (The only exception to this rule is basic differential and integral calculus, which is a must know.). I would really recommend Feynmann's Lectures in Physics as an excellent starting point. The great thing about this book is that he teaches you the additional math(for eg. vector calculus) as and when you require it. Also it is full of insights and anecdotes.
If you're thinking 'you should first learn all the math and then learn all the physics' its not going to work very well that way. Chances are good that you may never get to the physics that way.
Physics is really more about concepts and ideas, the math is just a means to the end.
As far as particle physics is concerned I would suggest that you just start out with one of the popular science books on particle physics written for the general public. You wouldn't need to know much more than algebra to read those.

9. Jun 1, 2013

### physwizard

10. Jun 2, 2013

### DrewD

Neither Einstein nor Faraday were useless at math. They may not have excelled at math the way some of their contemporaries did, but both were more than competent at math. The language of physics is math. You can find some good translations, but the more you understand math, the easier it will be to figure out the physics. This is especially true if you are trying to learn from books which often assume a certain level of math.

Edit:
to the original question, ODE and PDE for sure. Linear algebra is important. After that (IMO) learn physics and take detours when the math gets over your head.

11. Jun 2, 2013

### WannabeNewton

The only extra advice I can give you, that hasn't been said already, is: never learn math from a physics book.

12. Jun 2, 2013

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
All math is based on addition, except when it's not.

Faraday may not have used a lot of math in his studies of fields, but he had men like Green and Stokes coming along to fill the gap. Soon, Maxwell would put the cherry on top, so to speak.

Then again, there have been mathematicians who were no slouches in the physics department. J. v. Neumann and S. Ulam were trained as mathematicians and made significant contributions to physics, particularly the nuclear type.