Physics theory or maths?

Sam_Hawkins
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Physics theory or maths?

Postby Sam_Hawkins » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:17 am

Hi, I was wandering - since I want to go stady theoretical physics on grad school, isn't it better to rather go for maths degree? Cos pretty much majority of the researchers in the field are mathematicians anyway and I have noticed (mb false idea) that maths are not as hardcore-competitive admition-wise as say HEP theory...what do you think?

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quizivex
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Re: Physics theory or maths?

Postby quizivex » Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:14 am

Sam_Hawkins wrote:since I want to go stady theoretical physics on grad school, isn't it better to rather go for maths degree? Cos pretty much majority of the researchers in the field are mathematicians anyway...
You're correct. A maths degree is much more useful than a physics degree for doing physics. Graduate math programs focus entirely on theoretical physics applications whereas the physics department courses focus heavily on irrelevant topics such as number theory, analysis and abstract algebra. You're also much more likely to find a suitable research advisor for HEP in a math department than a physics department since most theoretical physicists at research universities work in the math department.

Sam_Hawkins
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Re: Physics theory or maths?

Postby Sam_Hawkins » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:50 am

quizivex wrote:
Sam_Hawkins wrote:since I want to go stady theoretical physics on grad school, isn't it better to rather go for maths degree? Cos pretty much majority of the researchers in the field are mathematicians anyway...
You're correct. A maths degree is much more useful than a physics degree for doing physics. Graduate math programs focus entirely on theoretical physics applications whereas the physics department courses focus heavily on irrelevant topics such as number theory, analysis and abstract algebra. You're also much more likely to find a suitable research advisor for HEP in a math department than a physics department since most theoretical physicists at research universities work in the math department.


Thank you very much!
So what would be your choice, apply for both theoretical physics and maths, or just go for maths? (taking in account you have sufficient funds)
I was recently studying for PGRE and aiming really to get 990, from a quick look at maths it seemed really much easier than physics. But 990 PGRE 900 MGRE would look definitely even better in my credentials :P

Thanks again :)

Scooter
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Re: Physics theory or maths?

Postby Scooter » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:19 pm

At this point I can't tell if that's a sarcastic reply to a sarcastic reply, or if he's missed the boat.

Sam_Hawkins
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Re: Physics theory or maths?

Postby Sam_Hawkins » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:22 pm

Scooter wrote:At this point I can't tell if that's a sarcastic reply to a sarcastic reply, or if he's missed the boat.


well if his reply was sarcastic then I got trolled. I honestly don't know the ropes in those things that much (obviously that's why I'm asking).

You have a different opinion? :)

Sam_Hawkins
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Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:16 am

Re: Physics theory or maths?

Postby Sam_Hawkins » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:33 pm

Oh well now I see it, I just read through it qute fast so I didn't really spot it. :oops:

Anyway, what I meant was not pure maths, but rather applied math, at some math departments they even have "mathematical physics" as a degree...

Edit: for example I have a friend who transferred to math depatment to study geometry after finishing bachelors in general physics
Last edited by Sam_Hawkins on Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TakeruK
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Re: Physics theory or maths?

Postby TakeruK » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:45 pm

If you want to do mathematics and then apply it to Physics, then sure, a math degree is okay and you can probably find some applied math programs that will study physical phenomena. For example, I was in a Physics department for my MSc and one of my committee members was a Math prof who does his research in celestial/orbital mechanics. However, the majority of his research was in the realm of "what is mathematically possible", instead of "what kind of mathematical models would we use to describe the physics we observe". Small difference, but there's a difference!

But you sound like you want to study physics and use math as a tool to e.g. uncover the theory behind the physical phenomena. I would say that this means you belong in a Physics department and a Physics graduate program. At my undergrad program, there is a joint Honours Physics & Math degree for people with interests that sound close to yours. That degree is technically joint between the Physics and Math departments, but the people interested in theoretical physics had Physics as their "home" department. That is, they fulfilled the Physics department requirements and then added on advanced Math courses to meet the Math requirements of their degree.

It sounds like you are in an undergraduate program right now, and maybe even pretty early on in your degree? It would be a good idea to talk to any academic advisors you might have assigned, or find a prof you can get along with. It is my opinion that if you want to do something like HEP-theory (or anything theoretical Physics), then you should actually get a Physics BS and add as many Math courses as you think you will need or are interested in. That is, do a Physics degree and take a bunch of electives in Math instead!

Sam_Hawkins
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Re: Physics theory or maths?

Postby Sam_Hawkins » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:53 pm

TakeruK wrote:If you want to do mathematics and then apply it to Physics, then sure, a math degree is okay and you can probably find some applied math programs that will study physical phenomena. For example, I was in a Physics department for my MSc and one of my committee members was a Math prof who does his research in celestial/orbital mechanics. However, the majority of his research was in the realm of "what is mathematically possible", instead of "what kind of mathematical models would we use to describe the physics we observe". Small difference, but there's a difference!

But you sound like you want to study physics and use math as a tool to e.g. uncover the theory behind the physical phenomena. I would say that this means you belong in a Physics department and a Physics graduate program. At my undergrad program, there is a joint Honours Physics & Math degree for people with interests that sound close to yours. That degree is technically joint between the Physics and Math departments, but the people interested in theoretical physics had Physics as their "home" department. That is, they fulfilled the Physics department requirements and then added on advanced Math courses to meet the Math requirements of their degree.

It sounds like you are in an undergraduate program right now, and maybe even pretty early on in your degree? It would be a good idea to talk to any academic advisors you might have assigned, or find a prof you can get along with. It is my opinion that if you want to do something like HEP-theory (or anything theoretical Physics), then you should actually get a Physics BS and add as many Math courses as you think you will need or are interested in. That is, do a Physics degree and take a bunch of electives in Math instead!


Yeah well I am going to my last year of BS and so far I have added subjects like lie groups/differential geometry/complex analysis along with my regular physics courses...

The main idea was that I wanted to ask if it is worth considering this option and if my pressumption that mb those degrees are somewhat less competitive than theoretical physics degrees is right? :)

Thanks anyway for the exhausting answer :)




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