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Where can I find a book to explain the maths behind physics?

  1. Mar 9, 2010 #1
    I am currently reading books explaining both classical and modern physics, such as stephen hawking, brian greene, and enjoy learning from these books.

    However i would love to learn more about the mathematical equations and formulae behind these theories.

    Does anyone know a book that explains this?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 9, 2010 #2
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Mar 9, 2010 #3

    I am assuming that you don't have a math background? If so, those two books will not be appropriate for you. Although the general concepts that authors like Hawking and Green write about can be formulated for a general audience, the math behind the concepts cannot.

    Unfortunately, we all have to start in the same place: Basic calculus and linear algebra (assuming you have a good grasp of high-school math). It is a long journey, but there is a lot of fun to be had along the way!

    (Sorry if I have mistaken your math background).
  5. Mar 10, 2010 #4
    Ok then...
    thanks everyone for the advice...

    can anyone recommend a book that explains the maths concepts that I would need to know...?

  6. Mar 10, 2010 #5


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    Science Advisor

    Yeah... If you're looking to understand the real physics and equations behind the very interesting concepts hawking, greene, etc. talk about, you're probably looking at at least an undergraduate education in physics, with certainly much more math for something like string theory.

    If this doesn't dissuade you, as Sankaku says you have to start with basic calculus and linear algebra, but really most of the mathematics necessary for understanding physical theories is typically introduced along with the course materials (i.e calculus of variation while learning classical mechanics, or differential geometry while learning general relativity). But more than just knowledge, I find a grasp of these theories certainly requires a good degree of mathematical and physics maturity.

    Take it as you like.
  7. Mar 10, 2010 #6
    If you genuinely want to start the journey, try an introductory Calculus textbook and see how you do.

    These are both inexpensive and get good ratings (I haven't used them myself):

    Calculus: An Intuitive and Physical Approach by Morris Kline

    Calculus by Elliot Gootman

    Alternatively, you can pick up a used version of Stewart's Calculus for about $4.

    If you find those too basic, the next step up is Spivak.

    On the other hand, you can also find some decent free Calculus and Linear Algebra ebooks:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Mar 15, 2010 #7

    This is the book you want, I mean this is the perfect book for you.

    It promises to explain the basis of modern physics (plus the main equations) to the girl/guy who doesn't know math.

    However, I bet you will not get past the 10th chapter with a deep understanding unless you've done complex analysis. Still, there are many many people who have read the entire book. Try the amazon reviews for example.

    I extremely recommend this book to you, it's motivated me a lot. It's written by Stephen Hawking's collaborator Roger Penrose so you'll be getting a pretty good first hand account of a discovery or two.

    This book may motivate you to start studying a book or two. Hopefully if that does happen here is a list of my recommendations;

    Should keep you busy for about a year ;)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Mar 15, 2010 #8
    There's also khanacademy.com for your basic to advanced math needs. He's quite good at teaching the concepts you may want to know.
  10. Jun 6, 2010 #9
    If you are no good at algebra (and live in the US) go to your local community college and for a couple hundred bucks you can get a 16 week course that you can ask all of your questions in. IF you don't know calculus, go enroll in Calc 1, then Calc 2, then Calc 3 and then Differential equations. Then take a linear algebra class. All of these classes can be taken at a local community college for not much money considering the personal attention you will receive. Once you have done all of that (or perhaps during the last half) you are ready to take the two normal introductory courses in physics (Physics with calculus 1 and 2). Once you have done all of that, go to a university and take a mathematical methods in physics course, then mechanics, then electricity and magnetism, and finally a mathematical physics course. Then you can pretty much do anything: read, watch susskind's online lectures (the theoretical minimum), etc.

    PS: This can be done and not only that, it is extremely fun. If you have discipline and a genuine concern for the math behind it all then this course of events will be mind-blowing to you in a wonderful way. If you are really disciplined, have proper guidance and do all of the ancillary stuff, then with a little more work (a few more classes) you can get a BS degree in physics and end up in a top physics graduate program. Then you'll be immersed in this stuff, which is even better.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2010
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