The Student Room Group

who is more clever -- the physicist or the mathematician?

this is a question that i've wondered for a long time now. in terms of AS courses, physics was BY FAR harder than maths as it involves understanding problems and then modifying equations rather than just modifying equations straight away; it also involves you sitting there in the exam and thinking imaginatively as well as logically. physics teachers also usually always have an answer for everything, whether it's chemistry or maths, while the closest maths teachers got to physics is mechanics.

that was my opinion -- i think the physicist is more clever. who is more clever -- the physicist or the mathematician?

P.S. this isn't a physics vs maths thread, so save your "physics is basically applied maths" arguments, people :smile:

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Reply 1
I've seen his argument in a forum full of heavyweight physicists and mathameticians, suffice to say mathameticians think they are the big geniuses and Physicists think they are.

If you ask me though a great physicist requires a broader range of skills where as a great mathematician really requires a smaller range of abilities, sometimes only being required to be capable at pure maths. However that said I don't think you can really answer this question without getting a kicking from either side of the argument :smile:.

I can tell you that the best physicists were commonly also master mathematicians as well, such as Schrodinger and Gauss.
Reply 2
i agree with you there. physics involves modelling real-life situations mathematically, so you need interpretation skills as well as mathematical skills -- both ends of the spectrum.
Reply 3
However the maths skills you need at degree level are scary and don't be mistaken for thinking that the level of difficulty is easy, it isn't, you genuinely need to be quite talented to do well.

Like I said though when all is said and done, I think broad range of abilities is more valued whether a great philosopher and mathematician like Bertrand Russel or a great mathematician and physicist like Maxwell.

That said don't undervalue the skills of the pure mathemeticians, a lot of science rests on there prodigious talents to visualise maths problems of startling complexity, even if it isn't immediately obvious how it's applicable.
Reply 4
If I had to choose, I'd say the physicist, because physicists are also mathematicians (they better be), but mathematicians are not necessarily physicists.

But in the end, doesn't it depend on the person?
Reply 5
madima
this is a question that i've wondered for a long time now. in terms of AS courses, physics was BY FAR harder than maths as it involves understanding problems and then modifying equations rather than just modifying equations straight away; it also involves you sitting there in the exam and thinking imaginatively as well as logically.

Spoken truely like someone who has done no mathematics beyond AS level :wink:
Reply 6
Speleo
Spoken truely like someone who has done no mathematics beyond AS level :wink:


well... i assume as the course in maths gets harder, so will the course in physics (which already has a head start).
The physicist

because he can appreciate that maths cant be applied exactly to every situation

Maths on its own is to 'pefect'

Mathmeticians rely on maths

Physicists can manipulate maths for their own needs

generally you find that alot of mathemeticians cannot apply maths to things
Reply 8
after being educated to a2 level (suposudly) maths and physics, i think its very hard to choose. Personaly i would say its probably more interlectualy demanding to comprehend some of the more advanced physics theories, however advanced (uni) maths is also incredibly complicated. its a fine line i supose
Reply 9
The question is meaningless. There is no distinct characteristic level of intelligence associated with either role. Newton and Einstein were arguably two of the most intelligent physicists ever. However, Euclid and Euler were equally intelligent. Historically, both physicsts and mathematicians have been very clever indeed and it makes no sense to try and say which is more clever.

And trying to evaluate the intellectual ability required for each role on the basis of A-level difficulty is just ridiculous, since A-levels require no real intellectual ability anyway, just a good memory.
Reply 10
Yeah but they don't give out Nobel prizes for pure maths. :smile:

I suppose if you look at from a raw clever level then their is no difference, but I think a genius is rated on the worth of his work or it's applicability or his ability to apply it. So people tend to judge based on this, particularly Nobel it seems.

Whether it's right to do so, or it even makes sense is beside the point, it's always been like that. If you can fart chew bubblegum and sing the national anthem, you get more brownie points than if you can only fart and chew bubblegum, particularly if your abilities create the next great break through.
Reply 11
Worzo
The question is meaningless. There is no distinct characteristic level of intelligence associated with either role. Newton and Einstein were arguably two of the most intelligent physicists ever. However, Euclid and Euler were equally intelligent. Historically, both physicsts and mathematicians have been very clever indeed and it makes no sense to try and say which is more clever.

And trying to evaluate the intellectual ability required for each role on the basis of A-level difficulty is just ridiculous, since A-levels require no real intellectual ability anyway, just a good memory.


...ditto
Reply 12
Worzo
The question is meaningless. There is no distinct characteristic level of intelligence associated with either role. Newton and Einstein were arguably two of the most intelligent physicists ever. However, Euclid and Euler were equally intelligent. Historically, both physicsts and mathematicians have been very clever indeed and it makes no sense to try and say which is more clever.

And trying to evaluate the intellectual ability required for each role on the basis of A-level difficulty is just ridiculous, since A-levels require no real intellectual ability anyway, just a good memory.


relax man... i only used AS levels as an example since this is the level i'm educated at. on the whole, however, i think physics teachers seem a little more clever -- that's all. but man, if you wanna fight just say so.

EDIT: lol
I'd say the physicist
Reply 14
madima
relax man... i only used AS levels as an example since this is the level i'm educated at. on the whole, however, i think physics teachers seem a little more clever -- that's all. but man, if you wanna fight just say so.

EDIT: lol

I'm totally relaxed! Sorry, my D&D tone was coming through there, I forgot what forum this was for a minute :smile: I stand by what I said though.

Your observation about physics teachers is believable. I'd say it takes more teaching skill to be a physics teacher than a maths teacher, but that's not saying anything about the general relative intelligence of those in either field.
Reply 15
^ Agree particularly with the teaching comment there. Even at lower levels, it takes much more skill to teach physics effectively than maths. I've tutored both to a GCSE student and I loved teaching both - but I found that I was much better at teaching maths - although I enjoy physics more.
Reply 16
Certianly not the one that writes 'more clever' :wink:

Maths A-Level is harder than Physics A-Level... Physics AS is piss and just requires a small amount of knowledge and higher GCSE Maths, and A2 isn't too much harder. (Though old school Physics A-Level was hard)

I think Physicists are undoubtably going to have a wider knowledge than Mathematicians, as Physicist needs to know Maths and Chemistry in addition to Physics.

However the Mathmo's are cleverer....
Reply 17
sebbie
Certianly not the one that writes 'more clever' :wink:

Maths A-Level is harder than Physics A-Level... Physics AS is piss and just requires a small amount of knowledge and higher GCSE Maths, and A2 isn't too much harder. (Though old school Physics A-Level was hard)

I think Physicists are undoubtably going to have a wider knowledge than Mathematicians, as Physicist needs to know Maths and Chemistry in addition to Physics.

However the Mathmo's are cleverer....


mathematics makes the bulk of the language of physics, not english. lol :smile:
At university it is often possible that an undergraduate mathematician can study physics topics at a higher level than the physicists do as the topics are too complex and difficult to be included in an undergraduate physics course.
Reply 19
sebbie

However the Mathmo's are cleverer....


Maths skill is but one thing we assosciate with being clever, don't forget creativity, lateral thinking, linguistic proficiency etc. I hardly think just being singularly good at maths makes you cleverer than someone who has a wide variety of talents, other wise idiot savants would be rated above physicists.

I think it is correct to assert the level of intellect amongst physics people and maths heads is probably fairly similar and no doubt unmeasurable anyway.

To rate one above the other is stupid and misleading, however a good way to judge is by overall achievement, how much work you have done to further your field. I think someone like Schrodinger who was both a profoundly talented mathematician and an instrumental physicist of the 20th century probably are brighter than pure mathematicians in fact there are some notable physicists that would have eaten most pure mathematicians alive for sheer mathematical talent.

To be frank I think I admire the achievements of physicists and mathematicians much more than mathematicians but that's a duh moment, everyone does. Just doing maths does not warrant the title the cleverest if you ask me, now if you can use it creatively in real world applications, then you go up a notch in my and nearly everyone's opinion I think.