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Multivariable calculus for Modern Physics?


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I haven't had Calculus II since my junior year in high school. I'm pretty good at math, so I pick up math easily, and I'm not too worried about multivariable calculus as long as I review some calc beforehand.

 

My question is that I want to take it because I'm taking Modern Physics next fall. I'm in Algebra-based Physics I now, and I will move to Algebra-based Physics II next spring. Do you think this would be a good idea or just a waste of time?

 

Also, does Multivariable Calculus help for Physical Chemistry?

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Also, does Multivariable Calculus help for Physical Chemistry?

 

Calculus is a very important part of the mathematical formulation of physical sciences. (Also, calculus can be found applied in almost every area of mathematics.)

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I'm somewhat surprised that you can jump from algebra-based physics to modern physics; I'd have suspected you needed the calculus-based class as a prerequisite.

 

That's the thing. Normally, it's Calculus-based Physics I & II, and then Modern Physics.

 

I figured if I take Calculus III, it should help for Modern Physics even though I am just in Algebra-based physics?

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That's the thing. Normally, it's Calculus-based Physics I & II, and then Modern Physics.

 

I figured if I take Calculus III, it should help for Modern Physics even though I am just in Algebra-based physics?

 

It's not just the math ability, though. It's the exposure to doing some physics problems using calculus, which form a foundation for the modern physics. You can probably do it, but there may be points where a derivation or discussion of a concept starts at a point that was not covered by the algebra-based physics, but was covered by the calculus-based class. i.e. you may have to do some extra physics studying to catch up. It's not just knowing the math.

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It's not just the math ability, though. It's the exposure to doing some physics problems using calculus, which form a foundation for the modern physics. You can probably do it, but there may be points where a derivation or discussion of a concept starts at a point that was not covered by the algebra-based physics, but was covered by the calculus-based class. i.e. you may have to do some extra physics studying to catch up. It's not just knowing the math.

 

That's what I'm worried about too. I mean, I really like physics, but I didn't want to jump into a calculus-based physics for second semester when I had a algebra-based physics for the first semester (and the professor once told me about this student who did that, and had A on the first semester - algebra-based physics and ended with C on the second semester - calculus-based physics).

 

I'm really thinking this because as you said, Modern Physics can be a very difficult course since I'm jumping from algebra to calculus-based physics. I really think that taking calculus III won't be as helpful for p-chem because there are students in my school who took p-chem with up to Calculus II (in fact, most are) and who ended up doing fine...

 

The problem is that I'm pre-med student, and I can't really risk doing bad on science courses for GPA. Biology is too much memorization and regurgitation for me, and Chemistry, at least from my exposure, isn't that much deep thinking (not saying Chemistry is easy but, like, it's mostly simple mathematics in an abstract concept). Physics, on the other hand, is so much fun... It's abstract and concrete at the same time? I love staring at physics problems even though they get me frustrated sometimes.

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In my opinion, if you know calculus, multi-variable calculus is not a big deal. Now differential equations are another story. I'm not sure what your modern physics class is like there, but if its just a GEC (General Education Course), it shouldn't be that bad mathematically. My Modern Physics class we are actually solving Schrodinger's Equations and learning Quantum Mechanics, but that's just the way it is set up.

 

But I would say if you have room to take the next math up, do it. It is always worth knowing more math, especially for physics and sciences.

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In my opinion, if you know calculus, multi-variable calculus is not a big deal. Now differential equations are another story. I'm not sure what your modern physics class is like there, but if its just a GEC (General Education Course), it shouldn't be that bad mathematically. My Modern Physics class we are actually solving Schrodinger's Equations and learning Quantum Mechanics, but that's just the way it is set up.

 

But I would say if you have room to take the next math up, do it. It is always worth knowing more math, especially for physics and sciences.

 

Yeah, I heard the same thing about Diff-eq (math department here tends to abbreviate the courses... not sure why). I didn't really "learn" series and sequences on Calculus II (I just learned it off from AP prep book), so I don't plan to take diff-eq. I was told that Multivariable is just extended version of Calculus I.

 

I talked with a physics senior in my school, and he said that if I'm serious about doing something with physics, I should switch to Calculus-based physics next semester. I feel that that movement will be risky for my grades though... and the professor for Calculus-based Physics is really tough, like I feel like I would understand everything, but he would just make my life miserable with his meticulousness (I have him for my intro lab).

 

I'm meeting with my Physics professor next Monday (hopefully) and my adviser on Wednesday. I feel that if I'm not going to do anything on physics (e.g. no modern physics), then I probably won't end up taking Calculus III because I could take something else that interests me. My professor for Inorganic Chemistry said that she learned all her math for p-chem with just stuffs from up to Calculus II, so yeah...

 

Thank you all for the responses! This is really helpful because I don't know any physics major (and as we all know, they are all really rare...)

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