# Programs Why do I have to take "Calc-Based Physics"as a Math major?

#### Integreat

I question whether you have the ability to pursue a math degree. Mathematics is not solely using an algorithm to solve trivial problems. Most likely, up till now, all your math classes consisted of plugging and chugging. You believe you were good at math, because you can get an A on a superficial test.
That's not true, I don't just get As on tests and believed I'm good at math, math is about understanding the concept and the nature of it, and becoming one with mathematics. I don't just take formulas and memorize it, I investigate "WHY." i.e. Why do we use integration by substitution when integrating a differentiated composite function--i like the analysis of mathematics. If you just merely memorizing formulas, that's NOT real learning of mathematics. You're right, currently my math curriculum are consist of "plug and chug" but i believe once i get into analysis--I will understand why we plug and chug--it's just the matter of time. As for physics... Mathematicians don't study math because it's "useful", I doubt Physics will help me understand math more-- as physicists viewed mathematics as nothing but a mere tool.

Anyhow, my main concern, once again-- is not how physics will help me understand math, but rather how much harder is calc- based physics compared to alg-base physics--and will I do fine if I start from scratch without any background knowledge about physics.

#### symbolipoint

Homework Helper
Gold Member
Integreat, none of this is correct.
...currently my math curriculum are consist of "plug and chug" but i believe once i get into analysis--I will understand why we plug and chug--it's just the matter of time. As for physics... Mathematicians don't study math because it's "useful", I doubt Physics will help me understand math more-- as physicists viewed mathematics as nothing but a mere tool.
All of that is wrong.
You yourself really need the sequence of Physics courses for the STEM people.

#### Integreat

Somebody who can't or doesn't want to do a simple calc based physics course doesn't deserve being called a mathematician
I'm afraid I have to disagree, there are a handful of elite Mathematicians doesn't have Physics knowledge/background. It is absurd to even say someone doesnt deserve to be a mathematicians, just because their lack of interest in Physics. With all due respect, I believed those who only cares about the applications of Mathematics, doesn't deserve to be a Mathematician-- considering they only viewed math as a mere tool. No offense, here is just my $0.02. #### symbolipoint Homework Helper Education Advisor Gold Member Your response to micromass message: I'm afraid I have to disagree, there are a handful of elite Mathematicians doesn't have Physics knowledge/background. It is absurd to even say someone doesnt deserve to be a mathematicians, just because their lack of interest in Physics. With all due respect, I believed those who only cares about the applications of Mathematics, doesn't deserve to be a Mathematician-- considering they only viewed math as a mere tool. No offense, here is just my$0.02.
Very misguided. You really, really, very much NEED the sequence of Physics courses for the S.T.E.M. major-field students.

#### ShayanJ

Gold Member
Anyhow, my main concern, once again-- is not how physics will help me understand math, but rather how much harder is calc- based physics compared to alg-base physics--and will I do fine if I start from scratch without any background knowledge about physics.
This is really absurd. You're a math student! Math isn't easy and if you're going to be scared of only a calc-based introductory mechanics course, you're going to be terrified at more advanced courses that are waiting for you on the way!
And come on...you really think taking just one such course is going too deep in physics than necessary for you?!...this is even more absurd. Its not like refusing to going inside a pet shop to buy a pet, its like refusing to look at the pet shop even once from a far distance because you just suppose you'll never want a pet. Just look at the shop for once(take this course), then if you didn't like any of the pets you've seen, don't go inside(don't take more advanced physics courses!).

#### Integreat

This is really absurd. You're a math student! Math isn't easy and if you're going to be scared of only a calc-based introductory mechanics course, you're going to be terrified at more advanced courses that are waiting for you on the way!
And come on...you really think taking just one such course is going too deep in physics than necessary for you?!...this is even more absurd. Its not like refusing to going inside a pet shop to buy a pet, its like refusing to look at the pet shop even once from a far distance because you just suppose you'll never want a pet. Just look at the shop for once(take this course), then if you didn't like any of the pets you've seen, don't go inside(don't take more advanced physics courses!).
Alright, I guess I'll give it a try. The reason is that the course was offered online, and I have absolutely no physics background other than General Physics at high school (which consist of applying formulas w/o understanding why). That's why I wondered if i will have the same problem problem in that class.

#### Integreat

Very misguided. You really, really, very much NEED the sequence of Physics courses for the S.T.E.M. major-field students.
I suppose...

#### ShayanJ

Gold Member
Alright, I guess I'll give it a try. The reason is that the course was offered online, and I have absolutely no physics background. That's why I wondered if i will have a problem in that class.
You said you've already had a alg-based physics course. What other background do you think may be needed?
This is basic physics, this is the background itself!
But maybe you have problem with the course being online and you like courses where you're present in the class. That's a different story!

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#### Integreat

You said you've already had a alg-based physics course. What other background do you think may be needed?
Well, the fact is, general physics made absolutely no sense to me in high school, i barely survived with a B- by doing a lot of hand outs without UNDERSTANDING why. i.e. why force is F=ma. my teacher just threw a list of formula and tell me to apply it. that's why I dont know if calc-based physics would be the same. It was a nightmare in gen. phys.

#### Mondayman

General Physics at high school (which consist of applying formulas w/o understanding why)
Introducing calculus into the physics will alleviate this problem.

Some of the most important mathematical developments came from the demands of physics, so it seems logical to have an introductory mechanics course. This is mandatory at my school for math majors, taken alongside first year calculus.

#### micromass

I'm afraid I have to disagree, there are a handful of elite Mathematicians doesn't have Physics knowledge/background. It is absurd to even say someone doesnt deserve to be a mathematicians, just because their lack of interest in Physics. With all due respect, I believed those who only cares about the applications of Mathematics, doesn't deserve to be a Mathematician-- considering they only viewed math as a mere tool. No offense, here is just my \$0.02.
You are very naive. That's ok. Back when I started my undergrad I hated applications of mathematics. I actively avoided them. But boy, I regret that attitude so much now.

Take functional analysis. It's a very cool field of research. But can one really understand it without knowing QM? I don't think so. How is somebody supposed to understand topology or differential geometry without the physical applications of stuff like measuring the earth or GR. How is somebody supposed to understand even calculus without seeing it in action in physics? Sure, you think you understand it, but do you really know the relevance of Stokes' theorem? I didn't until I studied more physics.

Talk about great mathematicians, you'll find that many great mathematician knew their physics very well. Von Neumann was very aware of QM. Hilbert did research on GR. Euler, Gauss, Laplace all had applications in mind. Do you really think you can be a mathematician without knowing some physics? Perhaps you can, but I guarantee that you will regret this attitude later in your life.

#### Crush1986

Well, the fact is, general physics made absolutely no sense to me in high school, i barely survived with a B- by doing a lot of hand outs without UNDERSTANDING why. i.e. why force is F=ma. my teacher just threw a list of formula and tell me to apply it. that's why I dont know if calc-based physics would be the same. It was a nightmare in gen. phys.
F=ma will still be the starting point for almost everything in freshman physics. You're going to have to take it a physical fact of life at first. If you ever take more advanced mechanics you'll see more of why f=ma is a fact of life. The good news is most everything else you'll be able to prove using it, not much else should be, "thrown" at you.
My advice, give it a chance and give it your all. Physics strengthened my mathematical skills many times fold. A lot of math majors I know felt the same and decided to go for the physics minor. In fact every math major I met in undergrad physics went for the physics minor now that I think of it.

#### Akorys

Micromass, you say that physics helps in understanding the motivation for certain math fields, of which I've no doubt. However, studying mathematics already gives you a large number of courses to choose from, and additionally the recommended stat courses. If one wants to be a math major, surely they do not need to learn quantum mechanics, general relativity, etc, or they may as well do a minor/ double degree? While I'm sure it is helpful, I wonder as to the extent of physics courses you're recommending for math majors?

#### Integreat

You are very naive. That's ok. Back when I started my undergrad I hated applications of mathematics. I actively avoided them. But boy, I regret that attitude so much now.

Take functional analysis. It's a very cool field of research. But can one really understand it without knowing QM? I don't think so. How is somebody supposed to understand topology or differential geometry without the physical applications of stuff like measuring the earth or GR. How is somebody supposed to understand even calculus without seeing it in action in physics? Sure, you think you understand it, but do you really know the relevance of Stokes' theorem? I didn't until I studied more physics.

Do you really think you can be a mathematician without knowing some physics? Perhaps you can, but I guarantee that you will regret this attitude later in your life.

I think there's a misconception here-- that I'm "afraid"of physics because of the "math" part. if anyone claim to be a mathematician but afraid the math, they might as well as NOT call themselves a mathematician. Perhaps you're right, Ill probably enjoy physics one day. although someone had already answered my true concern-- but once again, really boils down to-- is it going to be just memorizing formulas like i did in high school, because i did physics like that. but i dont understand anything at all, please allow me to use the good ol' example: F=ma. why is F=ma, how did they derived it. why is acceleration of gravity is -9.8m/s^2, where did the s^2 came from and why is it squared.

As you see I'm not that type of person who just take whatever the teacher told without asking "why," i like to understand the nature of everything. i.e. why do we use integration by substitution when dealing with a "differentiated" composite function.

I guess the reason why I'm having the "FEAR" of physics and applying math on it is because my high school experience, where I just memorize a colossal of formulas without truly understanding their nature. As I've said before, I barely survived Gen. Physics with a low B in high school. I'm just affraid that it'll be the same with calc-based physics.

#### max1995

I think there's a misconception here-- that I'm "afraid"of physics because of the "math" part. if anyone claim to be a mathematician but afraid the math, they might as well as NOT call themselves a mathematician. Perhaps you're right, Ill probably enjoy physics one day. although someone had already answered my true concern-- but once again, really boils down to-- is it going to be just memorizing formulas like i did in high school, because i did physics like that. but i dont understand anything at all, please allow me to use the good ol' example: F=ma. why is F=ma, how did they derived it. why is acceleration of gravity is -9.8m/s^2, where did the s^2 came from and why is it squared.

As you see I'm not that type of person who just take whatever the teacher told without asking "why," i like to understand the nature of everything. i.e. why do we use integration by substitution when dealing with a "differentiated" composite function.

I guess the reason why I'm having the "FEAR" of physics and applying math on it is because my high school experience, where I just memorize a colossal of formulas without truly understanding their nature. As I've said before, I barely survived Gen. Physics with a low B in high school. I'm just affraid that it'll be the same with calc-based physics.

When you do proper physics (starts once calculus is introduced into it) you should learn things like this, I am from the uk and until I got to university level (known as college in the US) we did plug and chug physics where we just had to use the formulas because you needed more maths than what we were taught at high school.

But once you hit university level, all the things you want to find out in bold will come through various physics courses (what you will cover derivation wise will depend on your course), yes some physics equations are still given to you at the earlier stage, but thats normally because it requires more advanced maths/physics than you have currently covered so wont understand the derivation with the current level of knowledge but there is no stopping you going and learning it of course

Dont worry it sounds like once you start doing proper physics you will actually enjoy it :D

#### axmls

I think there's a misconception here-- that I'm not "afraid"of physics because of the "math" part. if anyone claim to be a mathematician but afraid the math, they might as well as NOT call themselves a mathematician. Perhaps you're right, Ill enjoy physics one day. although someone had already answered my true concern-- but once again, really boils down to-- is it going to be just memorizing formulas like i did in high school, because i did physics like that. but i dont understand anything at all, please allow me to use the good ol' example: F=ma. why is F=ma, how did they derived it. why is acceleration of gravity is -9.8m/s^2, where did the s^2 came from and why is it squared.
$F = m a$ because Newton postulated that there is something called a force that causes objects to accelerate, and that acceleration also depends on the mass of the object. That's not really proven, though there are other formulations of classical mechanics where $F = ma$ can be derived (but it all boils down to making some assumption and seeing if experiments agree with it). $g = 9.8 m/s^2$ because experimentally, the gravitational force is $F = G \frac{M m}{r^2}$, and if $F = m a$, then since these are equal, $a = G \frac{M}{r^2}$. Plugging in known values of $G$, the mass of the Earth, and the radius of the Earth gives $a = 9.8 m/s^2$. The seconds term is squared because $m/s^2 = m/s/s$, i.e. "meters per second, per second"--acceleration tells you how fast the velocity (meters per second) changes per second. Things like this become very clear when you've learned calculus (especially the seconds squared part) and applied it to physics. I believe it is impossible to intuitively understand differentiation until you've seen the relationships between acceleration, velocity, and displacement in classical mechanics. Almost everything you do in first year physics is a result of solving the differential equation $$F = m \frac{d^2 x}{dt^2}$$ with various forces (spring forces, no forces, gravitational forces, etc.)

You will find physicists sometimes treat math very sloppily in the first year (and even onward). Don't be shocked when your professors are manipulating differentials. It's all grounded in proper math somehow, even if it is an abuse of notation.

#### Mondayman

I really feel that if where F=ma or the s^2 came from wasn't clear, the course either wasn't taught well or you didn't pay attention. Even in an introductory algebra-based physics class, it's pretty intuitive;

Anyway, introductory classes are guilty of dropping equations out of nowhere with not a lot of motivation. Just "use this in this situation". When you take your first calculus-based physics class, you start deriving these equations yourself, and they begin to make a whole lot more sense.

#### amys299

Taking freshman physics isn't going to just be memorizing equations and plugging and chugging if your university is actually teaching actual physics and if you're actually invested in the "why" part. All of physics is "WHY." The reason algebra-based physics had you memorize formulas is because there is an assumption you don't know calculus therefor you cannot fully understand the equations your using. If anything, algebra-based physics is the most useless thing in any curriculum so stop basing your assumption of physics because of algebra-based physics alone.

Also, a graduate mentor once told me no one fully understands F=ma until graduate school. It is more mathematically complicated, but all you will learn in freshman physics is F=dx2/d2t. If this formula has not given you an understanding about how math and physics are related, or what this math actually says about force and in turn what force says about math, you may want to look more in depth at what you learned in math, especially Calculus. When I took Calculus at my university, most of it was theory (the "why") but there was also a heavy emphasis on application.

#### symbolipoint

Homework Helper
Gold Member
...but once again, really boils down to-- is it going to be just memorizing formulas like i did in high school, because i did physics like that.
No. Physics in college or your university will not be like that.

#### MidgetDwarf

I think there's a misconception here-- that I'm "afraid"of physics because of the "math" part. if anyone claim to be a mathematician but afraid the math, they might as well as NOT call themselves a mathematician. Perhaps you're right, Ill probably enjoy physics one day. although someone had already answered my true concern-- but once again, really boils down to-- is it going to be just memorizing formulas like i did in high school, because i did physics like that. but i dont understand anything at all, please allow me to use the good ol' example: F=ma. why is F=ma, how did they derived it. why is acceleration of gravity is -9.8m/s^2, where did the s^2 came from and why is it squared.

As you see I'm not that type of person who just take whatever the teacher told without asking "why," i like to understand the nature of everything. i.e. why do we use integration by substitution when dealing with a "differentiated" composite function.

I guess the reason why I'm having the "FEAR" of physics and applying math on it is because my high school experience, where I just memorize a colossal of formulas without truly understanding their nature. As I've said before, I barely survived Gen. Physics with a low B in high school. I'm just affraid that it'll be the same with calc-based physics.

You would like Fundamental of University Physics, by Alonso and Finn. It is different than most introductory physics books. DO not purchase the book titled Physics.
Everything is derived, experiments that led to discoveries are given a good coverage. Many topics not introduced in the introductory physics sequence are discussed.

#### Integreat

You would like Fundamental of University Physics, by Alonso and Finn. It is different than most introductory physics books. DO not purchase the book titled Physics.
Everything is derived, experiments that led to discoveries are given a good coverage. Many topics not introduced in the introductory physics sequence are discussed.
Very interesting, ill take a look, thanx

#### jtbell

Mentor
Hi, why do I have to take calculus based physics, if I'm a math major?
Probably because it's a required course. If you are not happy with that, complain to your department.
Or go to a different university. I checked two that came first to the top of my head: Michigan and Ohio State. Neither requires math majors to take the calculus-based intro physics sequence, although Michigan does "strongly recommend" it.

#### symbolipoint

Homework Helper
Gold Member
Or go to a different university. I checked two that came first to the top of my head: Michigan and Ohio State. Neither requires math majors to take the calculus-based intro physics sequence, although Michigan does "strongly recommend" it.
A mathematics undergraduate program might not require a set of courses in Physics. The institutions would specify a list of "cognates" to choose from, which are of high mathematical content, meaning courses outside of the Mathematics department and which rely very much on Mathematics for their understanding. These are things like Finance, Business Management, Economics, PHYSICS, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering.

#### GHZ2016

I know that a lot of people have said things of this nature, but I think you're underestimating the relationship that most physicists and physics students have with mathematics. A lot of people are interested in physics precisely because of their love for mathematics. Mathematics is not just a tool, it's the way to translate the world around you into something understandable and manipulatable. Topics like classical mechanics or electrodynamics were awe-inspiring for me exactly because of the beautiful mathematics involved. Not only that, but they completely changed my relationship with mathematics and rigor and helped me to better understand where the original ideas came from and how new ideas are developed. If you think that there is such a thing as math for math's sake that is completely divorced from the physical world and the attitudes that have driven physics, I think that's more a mark of naivete and a lack of really understanding either at this point in your education. That's completely alright and even understandable, since you seem quite young, but you will find that you will be much better served intellectually and personally if you don't go about shutting down whole fields or areas of thinking based on a very small bit of experience with them. There's a lot of wonderful things to learn about in the world, and a lot of topics will surprise you so long as you remain open to them. If you approach something with only an attitude of being bitter that you have to do it in the first place, you're setting yourself up not to like it and you might miss something really cool.

Best of luck in your studies.

#### Fervent Freyja

Gold Member
I know that Micromass is from Europe
I wonder, do Russians prefer or dislike being called European or Asian, or do they consider themselves exclusively Russian?

"Why do I have to take "Calc-Based Physics"as a Math major?"

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